Okay, first…poetry now does suck, so let’s stop pretending it doesn’t.
We shall demolish the simple argument most commonly used to defend today’s poetry: Every era has good and bad poetry.
Yes, every era has good and bad poetry, true.
However, today we have something completely different: bad poetry is celebrated.
To be faced with “good and bad poetry” is easy for the public, for it simply rejects the bad poetry and enjoys the good.
But today poetry has no public, and for a very simple reason.
It’s a no-brainer.
The public has a deep mistrust of the product—and why?
Not because the public is afraid of running into some bad poetry amid the good.
The problem goes much deeper than that.
The public has checked out because it doesn’t believe that good poetry is possible anymore.
The public believes that poetry-at-large, poetry-in-the-main, poetry written and published today, is not operating with any standard of good and bad at all.
This public perception is so overwhelmingly the fact, that it doesn’t matter that good poetry somewhere is being published—the public has no way of finding it.
None of this is speculation; it is the simple truth, and those in the poetry business know this better than anyone: poetry has no disinterested public: the only people reading poetry are poets, or people who wish to be called poets.
“Poet” used to be up there with chef, musician, baseball player, or architect.
Now “poet” refers to either 1) professor or 2) homeless person.
“Poet” doesn’t even refer to “someone who writes poetry,” anymore.
“Poet” doesn’t even refer to “someone who writes bad poetry,” anymore.
Good—and thus bad—poetry simply doesn’t exist—for the simple reason that for at least two generations now, poets celebrated in academia—where poetry published and reviewed in the public sphere now resides—write what is felt by the public to be bad poetry.
That’s how bad it is, now.
Poet no longer means “someone who writes poetry.”
When it hears the word, “poet,” the public immediately thinks of homeless person or professor, with the common traits: self-centered, hard-to-understand, pretentious, boring.
Even if the public is caught off-guard and finds an interesting topic associated with a poem, it is never interesting because the interesting topic resides in a poem, but only because the interesting topic happens to be touched on by the poem—and this “fortunate” event only increases the public perception outlined above.
If poetry has no public, then poetry qua poetry must suck, because if poetry is good but has no public, how is that doing the public any good? Poetry, like music, must have a public to exist, because poetry, and its sister art, music, exist for the public, not the other way around.
Even the most rabid Language Poet Avant-garde Crazy person would not assert that the public exists for poetry.
So let us say that poetry does not exist for the public, but exists for some other reason.
Let someone tell us what that reason is.
There is no reply. There cannot be any reply.
The underlying reason why bad poetry is celebrated in academia is because of how poetry is produced.
Without a public, how can poetry have any material standards of excellence? The answer is, it does not.
How did poetry lose its public? It lost it when the place it got made was removed from the public sphere and put in the university.
This is known as the Creative Writing industry.
Imagine a wine industry with no grapes, no wine-makers and no wine tasting.
Imagine a wine industry—made entirely of wine critics who do nothing but write about wine.
This, without any exaggeration, is where poetry—as an industry—is today.