Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can poetry turn a profit online?

Not one week on the job and the Fat Man in Trenton and his band of greedy ward-heelers are already on the prowl up here in the Jersey Highlands. They're looking to dismantle the commission whose job it is to protect the watershed. "Heron and fox? Screw 'em. Trees? Bah. Clean-running rivers? We don't need that shite. We need economic development. Kill the bears, get rid of the eagles. You've seen one bird, you've seen 'em all. We gotta keep growing, the offshore accounts are getting a little thin, you see. Heh-heh." Sweet Lou says, "I just love the whining of elected officials who can't line their pockets fast enough. Makes me cry crocodile tears."

I look back at him. "Somebody voted the bastards in. All these angry small-time operators who turn farmland into strip centers and woodlots into subdivisions. They won't be happy till the whole state looks like Secaucus. Welcome to Xanadu." Sweet Lou is in his eighties but he still cares. He weighs about a hundred pounds in a parka and boots and continues to call me John. "It's like this Haiti business. These poor people, when disaster strikes everybody's their friend. Sending money hand over fist. I mean, nobody can beat us when it comes to disaster relief. But where were we the last thirty years? Exploiting the hell out of 'em. It's really sad." To say nothing of the teddy bears and bibles we send.

I think to myself, you've got to get beyond your capacity for disappointment and easy cynicism, always expecting the worst of people. If they do good deeds, don't criticize their motives. After all, you yourself don't know why
you do the things you do. I walk down the bridle path past the old iron works, long abandoned. Vultures glide across the blue sky sniffing the air for a sign of putrefaction. Okay, I get it -- there is no life without death. Big deal. Vultures will never go hungry. What about poets?

Milosz wrote that poems ought to be written rarely and reluctantly, in the hope that
good demons have seized you. Who heeds that advice nowadays, when poems spill out of people at a phenomenal rate, billions of words strung together -- you'd think these word combinations meant something to their declaimers -- with no respect for the awful power of silence? These so-called poems that try to say everything and, in so doing, mean nothing. These endless strings of fleeting words, unmoored, free floating, worth so little, in the end, worth less than the air it takes to shape them. Little lyrics for a pretend life. What can one do? It's the lot of humans to make a mess of things, whether poems or landscapes, forgetting as we do that things are not important -- it's the relationship between things that is.

Williams wrote that the pure products of America go crazy. I think to myself, only an American would ask the question, "Can poetry turn a profit online?"

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