Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mobs of poets

I listened to some of Garrison Keillor's "poetry show" on Prairie Home Companion today, which featured a variety of poems that seemed remarkably unremarkable. It put me in mind of the startling intelligence revealed on Silliman's Blog this week that booming MFA writing programs across the country may welcome into their expensive arms as many as a hundred thousand applicants this year. Gone are the days, obviously, when a poet's career represented an exceptional social destiny: instead we have mobs of poets and authors going about their business with the enthusiasm of Qigong practioners, doomed to everlasting anonymity, but driven on apparently by the joy of self-expression.
Literature, its interpretive function long ago abandoned, is now transformed into a branch of the personal growth movement. And my cynical aphorism of 40 years ago, that literature is an attempt to make life more meaningful than it in reality is, while literary criticism is an attempt to make literature more meaningful than it in reality is, deserves a re-think.

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