Last night was great as far as my reading went. Robert Hass came to my reading and said he liked it. I was happy that he was there, and I am happy that he said he liked my reading because I think that he is one of the more honest people in poetry. People came up to me afterward and said that they were afraid of coming to a poetry reading and that now they were glad that they did. One woman gushed and said, "I am so glad I came out to this now." And another woman said, "I didn't know poetry could be exciting and funny and sad at the same time." I told them I thought that was the point of poetry, and they apologized for being uninitiated, which I thought was cute, and I touched one of them on the arm and said, "you aren't uninitiated. You've just never seen me read before." And we all laughed, and everyone came up to me and told me they loved me, and I felt good about myself and my work and about poetry.
Then I went across the hall to the Holloway reading. The Maude Fife room was like a shower at Auschwitz. Some people scrambled for the door as soon as Jasper Bernes started talking. Some thought, "this can't be happening." Others looked at each other and wondered if it was just a joke. But it wasn't a joke. We were being gassed. There were a lot of first-timers there who had never been to a poetry reading, and they got to see how poetry is being destroyed by people who are so academic they can't help but kill anything beautiful they touch. Jasper got up and "introduced" Ariana Reines, whose book, COW, I kind of liked, but what he said was, everything in the world sucks, and nothing good or new about poetry has happened since 1970. He tried to qualify the second part, but qualification is cowardly and should be done only after emphatic apology. He went on and on for what seemed at least 20 minutes about wars and how ugly, absurd, and disgusting poetry is. So I wanted to ask Jasper, if he really believes what he says about poetry, why bother studying it or writing it? Or, if you don't believe it, and you think that's just how academics are supposed to talk about art because academics are like vivisecting scientists, how do you look yourself in the mirror when you wake up? In fact, how do you get up and say that shit and like yourself enough to keep going? There are so many things to hate and get other people to hate, do you have to spend time getting people to hate poetry? Especially since, to some degree, you're in a position to actually make a difference in the way people think about poetry. Do you really want to have a negative effect? I mean, if you had a sense of humor you might be able to be at least entertaining about your hate for art, but you're not funny. I used to like talking to you about things because you are mean and spiteful, which I mistook for a critical mind, but now I realize you're not critical at all, just hateful, which is deplorable.
I just don't understand it. When I get mean it's because I see that people are hurting the art by being disingenuous or toeing industry lines or being cliquey. But you, you're just mean to poetry itself. Poor poetry. Will anyone lift her charred remains from the dusty floor in Wheeler hall and take her back to the streets where she belongs? Only there can she get better, where the vulgar won't disguise their thoughts behind jargon. Will anyone love her enough to tear ope the cage of academia and break her free?