Is This the Country That Loves Its Poets?


It is if your poets can afford this chair! Okay, I’m being snide. I think the fact that poetry isn’t a money-making venture in the U.S. enables poets to write what they need to and not what “the man” suggests. We aren’t walking around trying to please someone else, hoping to get a government appointment or be put up in a chateau on a hill somewhere with the task of beautifying the world in verse. We are looking at inequities, pawing at marketing ploys, poking at blind patriotic sentiment, testing the language of everday speech, etc. We are doing political work within the realm of aesthetics.

Isn’t it a bit ironic though, that in the history of the world, ours is the top dog among all nations, economically and militarily speaking, yet our poets are one of the most underappreciated group of artists going. A broad generalization, yes, but a fairly verifiable fact nonetheless. Very few poets live above the poverty level if they simply write poetry. No, a poet has to survive as “something else” — a teacher, a janitor, an electrician, an insurance salesperson, even a sanitation worker (i.e. “a garbage man,” as one of my Creative Writing students calls himself).

But still, I cannot help but wonder what marketing genius decided that this particular design at Crate and Barrel would be served best if referred to as a “Poet’s Chair.” Will it make me write better? With a sense of purpose? Stay up late and write when I’d rather be sleeping? Give me prompts and motivate when I’m feeling like a hack?

I kind of hope there’s a little bar of gold buried in the cushion somewhere in order to imagine any plausible reason someone would consciously purchase this leather and wood on which one places mere buttocks. But really, it boils down to the sensationalism of high culture and commodification of a pseudo-intellectualism. Recall Gatsby educating himself on the boats with his books in an effort simply to become nouveau riche and surround himself with luxury items aplenty. At $1,500, I imagine someone like Gatsby might purchase this chair. Or Barbara Bush.

Poetry Politics

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

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