Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Something must break

Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed a plethora of North American poets posted under the bluepepper of late. It has been a welcome, if slightly inexplicable, influx from across the line, and although all the poets vary markedly in style, they seem to me to share at least one characteristic in common: anxiety.

Whether that brand of domestic anxiety growing daily more acute amongst our northern cousins as the GFC slowly morphs into the Great Recession, or whether the more intrinsic and universal breed of anxiety that is the dark twin of our cognisance, much of the poetry being written in North America these days seems to revolve around this dread of what to do next. One need look no further than the (periodically) hallowed pages of Chicago’s Poetry for proof of this.

Much ink has been spilled over this anxiety pandemic, often by people who do not lie awake at night wondering where their next mortgage payment is going to magic from. According to such incurable “pundits” our anxiety is rooted in our rampant materialism and overwhelming urge to accumulate more “stuff”. Embedded in such commentaries is the tacit implication that the poor (ie those outside their hallowed circle, meaning poor in time, cash, health, pretty much any measure you care to cite) are to blame for the Great Recession for having the audacity to access cheap credit in order to buy back some of their God-given time for themselves.

The “Occupy” protests (insert your own home town) are, of course, a direct result of this. A physical manifestation of both the symptom and the disease, a reactive rather than prescriptive movement, it has nevertheless garnered support due to the sheer tenacity of its participants. Their main focus, much like the anti-globalisation protesters before them (who also seemed to cherry pick facts with that magic 20-20 hindsight of the reactive), is the tension between the “inside” and the “outside” in which the middle class is being slowly ground into dust, leaving the classic liberal model of democracy standing on very shaky ground indeed.

The couch on which I pen such opulently sweeping drivel is a beautiful beast of Italian Racing Red Leather on which I have often teetered between feelings of belonging to one camp or the other, “insider” or “outsider”, until I realise that for a poet of my misanthropic stamp the preposition is itself the dominant trope and I find myself perched like a fat talking egg while the kids throw stones at all the King's horses. 

Others more passionate and courageous than I are not so ambivalent, and I wish them all the luck in the world convincing those on the “inside” (whether in the arts, finance or politics) to see things from an outsider’s point of view.

That is, of course, one of the enduring themes of literature both great and small, and perhaps why my feelings of “insidership” are brief and ultimately fruitless, while my sense of living apart endures in its bitter and fruitful way.

Poets should not despair of living like this. It is their job, whether or not they are fortunate enough to be in possession of an Italian Racing Red Leather Couch. Either way, I hope you enjoy these poems from a country less fortunate than ours.

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