"--and Lucinella," says Newman (I jump), "writes for her private phophylaxis, she says, the way she cleans her teeth--"
"You know what I meant," I cry, shocked. I thought I was on his side! He's righter, surely, than the rest of us. "I only meant that writing has grown as deep as habit--"
"Aren't you--" Betterwheatling tries again.
"What I meant"--Winterneet leans toward Newman--"is that to refuse forms perfected by the past is like having to invent the bed each time you want to go to sleep."
"Your forms," says Newman, "were created on the backs of blacks."
"And women," cries Pavlovenka.
"Aren't you confusing--" Betterwheatling says.
"I'm talking," says Winterneet, "about the mastery of technique."
"Technique is racist," says Newman. "Its purpose is to master slaves."
"I'll never master it!" Pavlovenka promises.
"Aren't you confusing the realms of poetry and politics?" says Betterwheatling, bending his neck into a U to force Newman's attention.
"Poetry is politics," says Newman.
This is parody, of course, but nonetheless I sort of agree with Newman. Technique is racist, in the sense that we hold everyone to the standards of the hyper-educated, but do everything we can to keep black people poor and education expensive.
I went to a reading and talk by Thomas Lux yesterday, and I was disappointed to hear him espousing Collinsian rhetoric (he actually name-checked Billy Collins) to the effect that poetry should be "accessible," the poem should be "hospitable," and even that difficult poetry is "rude."
I don't understand this mindset. It's one thing to prefer a simple, straightforward, user-friendly, and personable poetics. It's quite another to turn your tastes into an ideology, to frame accessibility as some kind of moral imperative. How exactly are we supposed to manage the arts so that everything is equally "accessible"? And isn't "accessibility" almost entirely subjective, depending on one's education, class, race, sex, culture, and so on, not intelligence per se? Accessibility, as far as I'm concerned, is racist (and sexist), because it's defined so often by white men who assume that what is accessible to them is accessible to everyone. (Sorry to be picking on white men this week; fight racism with racism I guess.)
If you like "accessible" poetry (whatever that means to you), then write and read accessible poetry. But leave me my Stevens (not accessible at all), my Anne Carson, my Lyn Hejinian, my Kirsten Kaschock. You can have your Billy Collins.