How The New Deal Ruined The Arts

Poetry is an industry. It has always been an industry. It is something that people do. Writing poetry is work. You may be paid for this work in money, or you may be paid in the esteem of your peers, or you may be paid only in your own satisfaction. But you are paid.

Before the New Deal, poets were paid either in the esteem of their peers, or in book royalties. ...

Here is the way poetry works now. The business is teaching. The currency is the book. Now that Tryfon Tolides has a book, and one published by Penguin at that (rather than, say, Dirt River Press), he can get a teaching job. His teacher, Karr, has "made" him. ...

When I say "teaching job," of course I don't mean eighth grade. With a Penguin book, Tolides is qualified to teach creative writing anywhere that has an opening. Of course openings are scarce these days, because everyone with an IQ over 95 is going to college and the system simply cannot be expanded. ...

... one ascends in the poetry world exactly the same way that one ascended in the Soviet intelligence services: by joining the right clique and remaining loyal to it. It is a pure pyramidal patronage system.

... There is simply no independent pool of taste. There is only a vast river of books released by an endless stream of careerists. ...

And worse, what these careerists seek is not even good filthy money. Teaching poetry is an abominable career. Unless you are ridiculously lucky, your students are subhuman morons, your pay is laughable, your prospect of tenure is nonexistent.

However, you are paid with something that no money can buy, the social status of poet. And no one - and I mean no one - in the world looks down on a "published poet." ...

What a pathetic and contemptible system! These people are nothing but bureaucrats. And the situation is only getting worse.

via Unqualified Reservations: Tryfon Tolides: an almost pure empty poetry.