In the past few days, various poet-invitees have begun posting reflections at Harriet, the blog of the Poetry Foundation. To date, two of these contributions have somewhat anxiously engaged the matter of money’s growing incursion into the “avant” poetic field—a field that arguably was, not so long ago, quite a more autonomous and mutinous cultural space, to coin a phrase. (Heuristic check: 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference, say, vis-à-vis 2016 AWP).
Today, April 11, 2016, Kingsley Tufts Award finalist Jennifer Moxley follows Stephanie Young and Tim Yu in wringing hands at Harriet on the poet’s present dilemma regarding money. She shares some related and nagging worries, therein, as to how an expanding system of Poetry Prizes and Honors has come to permeate the field’s collective psyche and begun to administer its behaviors.
Well, no, that’s not exactly right: Moxley, in fact, doesn’t turn any kind of critically suspicious eye, really, to the ideological forces and pressures brought about by the current Prize-Structure dispensation; she writes, rather—and in the manner of self-help instruction–about her own learned ability to come to terms with making a little money (or a lot of it, depending on the Prize or Chair) from poetry, in whatever way fickle fortune may choose. Here at Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, we are both happy and sad for her ease.
At Dispatches, this new magazine-cum-quasi-Masada operation, we have in the past couple weeks posted a number of items that address the new and tighter ties of literal money with literary money. How could we not, given that the rules of the game are so clearly entwined these days with flows of capital through variegated institutional channels that bestow prestige and profession on chosen individuals or groups? Which is to say that Real and Imaginary currencies are now blended in poetry as never before. And however self-serving and weak-tea they may be for our tastes, we are delighted at the sudden, self-conscious meditations on the topic, posted at the well-loaded and well-paying Poetry Foundation, in the past 48 hours.
And, too, because we love serendipity in all things, we wanted to share the following extended missive, “Racing after the Prize,” published in 2013, in the journal Canadian Literature, by Michael Boughn, the founder of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars. He was at first hesitant, because he doesn’t like to talk about himself all that much (though sometimes he does, of course, a little bit, as a normal human being). But finally he relented to its reprint, after the unanimous argument was made by our DftPW office staff of twenty-seven that the critical richness borne by the account might be of some pedagogical benefit to the three dozen or so “progressive” Poetry Foundation bloggers who have presently run to the lap of their Cop-calling Sugar Daddy on this National Poetry Month. Which is a long and winding concluding sentence, for sure. But Dispatches pays by the word, so I trust you will indulge me.