Re: Dispatch #41

Poetry Magazine was never of any consequence except for the times that it was highjacked by Ezra Pound.  That it has been around for such a long time just proves that mediocrity has a half life similar to that of plutonium.  No one I knew coming up as a poet took Poetry Magazine seriously.  First of all it never published poets who were cutting edge, recycling the same old Anglo-centric pablum.  You had to go to nonaffiliated little mimeo magazines to find anyone worth reading.  Jack Spicer did a wonderful send up of Poetry Magazine (from the iconicwireframe Pegasus cover days) which expressed the disdain we all felt for Poetry Magazine.  Poetry Magazine was a joke.  Now it’s a joke with a lot of money (aka Poetry Foundation) which has improved its outreach but certainly not the quality of what it publishes.    No serious poets read Poetry Magazine just as they don’t go to the New Yorker to get their poetry jolt, or The Atlantic, or The Nation.  To be published in these pages is akin to appearing in the social register.  It has nothing to do with literature, the kind that “men die for.”

But why be surprised that the people running the show at Poetry Magazine/Foundation are part of the shabby shadowy trust fund siphoning arts administrator aristocracy with intelligence service ties?  These people exist in the nebulous strata of the cocktail party cons and scams, skimming the art dollars in exchange for aputative sophisticated élan while promising access to additional funding into which they will “dip their beaks”.  Literature and intelligence services are a perfect match.  JJ Angleton was the poetry editor of Furioso, a very popular little magazine of the post war era.  He ended up as Director of Counterintelligence for the CIA.  Poets have the right stuff for that kind of work.  They’re highly intelligent and batshit paranoid.  Kit Marlowe,another spy.  The Paris Review was funded in part by the CIA.   Cultural “writers abroad” programs were funded by CIA.  But considering how little it takes to buy writers, especially poets, the funds most likely came out of petty cash.  Bram Dijkstra’sAmerican Expressionism takes a look at the corporate (CIA) takeover of art, suppressing the social realism of the 30’s for the ambiguity of Abstract Expressionism.  And wasn’t Partisan Review somehow compromised by dubious funding?  All this to say that the intelligence services use (or used to use) artists and writers as low level cultural infiltrators who can serve the purpose of being at the right place at the right time (but now they have social media).  It’s a scattershot approach, but the investment is minimal.  And who knows, one of these tortured artistic souls might become an international literary celebrity and in the position to put their ears to the marbled walls of government intrigue.  If nothing else it makes good copy.

Chas. E. Bolton