The best thing about being a poet these days is we are widely ignored and not taken seriously. We are anomalies, outcasts, losers. We lose our place in a society that many of us do not want a place in anyway. That’s what drove many of us to our first poems, as readers and writers, and it was the community many of us have found that came to validate the lonely struggle with words, the impossibility of words matching the internal and external experiences we also struggled with. Many of us came out of that struggle with poems we were not fully ashamed of, and found at least a few other poets to share words with. That’s all it has to be. If someone wants more than that from poetry, let that person pursue it, but do not impinge on a person defending the more gorgeous territory of poetry in its loser state, the community people come to of their own volition to make losers of themselves and lose as much of the success-and-money-driven nonsense that befuddles many of us who prefer trees and music to the artificial constructs of social necessity.
We don’t need to function like academics or professionals. We don’t need consultants, the establishment hierarchies, or pyramid schemes. We can get by on very little money, as poets, as publishers, and as readers. I’m not against money, but poetry’s irrelevance to government, business, and most of the people we encounter daily is exactly what frees us from having to devote ourselves to expectations we don’t want for our poems. That frees us to make of ourselves and our poems exactly what we want, or at least what our imaginations can muster. If you want to stamp that with something else, if you want to brand it, commodify it, or claim your authority on it, then people like me (the big losers who don’t have academic jobs, who don’t have a stake in a poetry career, who live for community built only on the single precept of loser poetry, that we lose ourselves in it, if only for a few minutes in a poem or a few hours at a reading) will shout you down, will call you on your nonsense, will expose your positioning, and may in the process drive you from poetry. But only from loser poetry. Go be a grown up poet then. Do all the things with your poetry that bankers and politicians do with their money and their lies. That’s okay with us. But don’t expect us to embrace you. Don’t expect us to read your poems. Never expect us to ignore your proclamations. Never expect an explanation, because our poems are more than an explanation.
Don’t take this as a manifesto or an indictment. When I say “we” I am talking about the part of myself that embraces the poets I love, and there are so many that I often feel as if I am not my own self but a composite of my love for poets. Among the poets I love are tenured professors, lawyers, bankers, adjuncts, body-builders, addicts, feminists, Republicans, monsters, Christians, back-stabbers, divorcees, the dead, the forgotten, peacemakers, grudge-carriers, radicals, apostates, children, and the yet unborn. I am silly and full of love. I do not need to make sense. But I will make a stand for what I love, loser poetry, which admits and embraces its own inevitable failure, as Beckett decried, and makes it possible for us to find a place for ourselves in that failure.