Date: Sun, 12 May 2002
Subject: Re: Why poets should read only cereal boxtops

At the risk of fuelling this further---

Aaron Belz aaron@BELZ.NET wrote:

> I often remember Ashbery's line, "In school all the
thought got combed out." <

You don't support your case by arguing it through a
line of poetry written by a Harvard-educated poet.

At the most elementary level, merely to know how to
write requires the basic education of alphabet, etc.
To write with a less limited vocabulary and to know
how to employ what correct spelling or grammar are, a
little more education. The very ideal that such a
thing as poetry exists, versus only transcribed speech
or prose, takes the education of being introduced to a
poem (increasingly rare, in the over-all poetry-less
American culture): schools themselves are usually the
only place where that happens. That poetry can be
more than one particular stamp of style (metered,
rhyme) grows out of exposure to more and more
varieties of authors, historical periods: eduction (or
self-education). And, for right or wrong, right now,
whether it's an insiders' network recognizing the cues
of their own compatriots, in terms of book prizes,
writers' colonies and other institutionalized measures
of a poet's advancement or status, there is a
statistically disproportionate number of MFAs, that
is, education beyond even the B.A. college level.
With academic critics, similarly.

A better-educated poet is a better poet (a
better-educated person is in a better position to

The topic that I was responding to, Andrew Rathmann's
anti-literacy "rant" that poets should not read
academic criticism, was focussing on one particular
stripe of thinking, that of academic criticism:
critique, critical/analytical thinking, theory
(intertextuality, interrelation of parts to whole,
testing poetry against the filter of canonical
thinkers/philosophers [the condemned Adorno]...).

Broadening (blurring) the topic to include
contemplation ("How about thinking with the body, with
the soul; through meditation") or late phases of
character ("through experience. Wherefore wisdom?"),
or other types of thought, such as daydreaming,
fantasy, visionary hallucination, dyslexia, etc., is
catholic of you, a sort of fundamentalism, but that
departs from the original question of whether poets
should insulate ourselves unread and blindered.
I was addressing only that, and not every periphery of
the mind and human condition.

> Your logic reduces thought to what can be had
through education, and that, for me, is borderline
crazytalk. <

The List will function more civilly if we keep what we
say to each other a little more Christian.

"We must not think of the matter in a human way" --
St. Augustine