Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Power and Freedom of Poetry

Funeral of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier, 1889
"Recently it has become something of a truism to note that poetry – especially "experimental" poetry  is one of the few activities that does not, indeed cannot, participate in the market. Anyone even peripherally involved with poetry knows it doesn't sell. As Charles Bernstein is fond of saying, a blank piece of paper is worth about two cents or so, but once you write a  poem on it, it takes on a negative value. Some find this situation deplorable, an example of everything that's wrong with contemporary culture; some, like O'Hara, have shrugged it off, accepting the fact that poetry probably has about as many serious adherents as bungee-jumping or bonsai-tending, and it has probably always been so, despite what those inclined toward nostalgia might say; some, like Bernstein, argue that poetry's negative market value is precisely the source of its political and aesthetic power and freedom."

– from Maggie Nelson's Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (a passage that  relies on the difficult technique of composing by paraphrase – all the ideas pulled together here are attributed to others, while still shaped, arranged and set to Nelson's own cadences for purposes of her own rhetorical project)