Friday, September 22, 2006

Fall Cometh

Meredith and I are enjoying the last of our Summer vacation. The weather has gotten palpably colder, and the sun has been setting sooner than I've been used to. I've also been feeling sleepy at 10PM. That's a sure sign to me. We've been trying to watch X-Files Season 3 DVD's and I've been falling asleep through some of the episodes (I've already seen all of them, but I need to stay awake to field questions from the significant other).

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Many folks have been talking about the Best of American Poetry series. To be honest, I stopped buying the series years ago. I'm less interested individual poems, these days, and more interested in what an artist does over a long series. Anyway, what's evident is that poetry, or for that matter, the arts, is operating in a patron/patronage system, and many people wish for a more democratic system. Rather than the wealthy or the nobility commissioning writers/artists to create a portrait or write an ode, nowadays we have grant-giving institutions issuing monetary grants--mentors bestowing blessings upon their betters. We hope that such an institution, again, would be more democratic but often the selection committee members know of a dude who knows a dude. What we need to be clear about is that the arts and many other ventures function under a gift economy (quid pro quo). I do like what what Charlie has to say about this whole affair.

To be sure, I've participated in this gift economy. I've told friends to check out this journal or that reading venue. I've also been solicited by friends to submit work to journals, anthologies, etc.. At the time I've done these "favors," I didn't see them as "favors," but as community-building. Would I like a system that allows for a broader democratic participation? Of course. I would also love more acts of charity as well as humility. Meantime, I'm going to continue writing, sending my work out to journals, filing my rejections in a large folder, filing my acceptances in a small folder, and I'm going to do my best to model my understanding of what it means to be a writer.

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I've been cleaning up my office. I finally hung up some curtains. They're quite ugly and they don't fit correctly on the posts. At least I won't have the administrators staring at me while I surf blogs . . .

6 comments:

barbara jane said...

good post ollie. for some reason, i think better of the term "gift economy" than "nepotism." i like that you consider it "community building," and i think that's what i do in my own behind the scenes work.

also, i do think the poetry "industry" does function in a master-apprentice model, and that it really never has been a democratic system. has it? i don't know exactly why there's a demand for a democratic system now.

just some thoughts.

so re: x-files season 3, have you gotten to the "bleepin dead alien" with jesse ventura and alex trebek episode yet? that's another one of my favorites.

C. Dale said...

Good post. I hadn't thought of the term "gift economy," but I think it is apt. Poetry and all of the arts has always been a system of patronage. The idea of a democratic structure is interesting, but I don't have a clue how one would execute that. We all have such differing tastes and aethetics.

Oliver de la Paz said...

Yeah, for the life of me I don't see how one could "democratize" taste. The Master-Apprentice model would be difficult to democratize, since "Masters" have always taken the shiniest "Apprentice" under their wings.

Another part of the issue for a lot of people is the term "Best" which constructs hegemonic divisions. Then we wonder, what criteria goes into making the decisions for this particular anthology. Next, we wonder who makes up this criteria. Finally, we wonder, "Who died and made them God?"

If we lose the term, "Best," and create the Editor's Choice Awards of 2006, do we have less of an issue?

csperez said...

hi oliver,

linked here from barbara's blog and was just wondering if i could link to your blog from my blog?

blindelephant.blogspot.com

peace

barbara jane said...

hi again ollie, in response to: "If we lose the term, "Best," and create the Editor's Choice Awards of 2006, do we have less of an issue?"

i'd say yes, i believe there would be less of an 'issue.' "best" is such an absolute term, one which would indicate some kind of objective criteria, and obviously, "editor's choice" indicates one's own subjective criteria. thing is, lehmann didn't name his series "editor's choice..." for reasons i can only speculate upon, having to do with the above so-called absolute, objective criteria by which we "should" be deeming poetry worthy. etc etc.

i think more and more about master-apprenctice models, and gift economies, and these i find much favor with. though, i'll also say that it's perhaps when one is selected by a "master" as one of the "shiniest" "apprentices" that one can look upon this system favorably. no?

Oliver de la Paz said...

To C.S., link away! I've added you as well.

To BJ, it's abundantly clear that "Best" is "Best" for marketing. And it's good to be the shiniest. You also get the sparklies. But alas, at times the glare prevents you from seeing outside . . . That's why they invented sunglasses.

***Starts to hum a certain Corey Hart song popular in the 80's***