OCD Crow gets flibbertigibbitty over certain recurrent issues in the Canadian poetry scene, or perhaps just in her own nattering brain. A few of these leaves she keeps turning over & over again in the mire are:
1/Should poets do anything else, career-wise, but teach? Is teaching a sign that they have become safe, too sane, cloistered behind their own presumptions of mattering, being read, getting slotted in the canon at least by the time they become tenured? What’s wrong with alternate professions? Can the poet thrive in an environment where they are beset by beginner writing they must incessantly grade, their own energies worn down by assessing lesser work than they aim to create?
2/Related to this, should Creative Writing courses and especially degree programs even exist? Do they only serve the teachers in terms of their need for a source of income? How is such a system contributing to the homogenization of Canadian literature, the niceness and boredom of it, as well as the narrowing of channels relating to prizes, jobs, publications and other forms of lauding? Is this system destroying the renegade poet, liminalizing them beyond even the barest hope of survival?
3/Furthermore, should contests and prizes be offered for poets in the rampant way they now are? How does competition in any form, even the expectation that one will perform one’s work in order to please an audience and possibly sell the book, affect art? Can we be ok with such acts as a mode of earning a potential pittance, supporting literary magazines, and assisting our publishers, or are we fooling ourselves with short-term “gain” for long-term erosion? Does this turmoil also relate to the reception of grants or does their essential “anonymity” and basic “freedom to produce” detach such sources from sullying the artist?
4/What about the “negative review” as Jan Zwicky calls it. Should it be written? Must we be concerned about the poet’s fragile ego, whether in relation to a book or after a performance? If the book is stricken with cliches and other forms of laxness should we be silent and presume that time will tell? What has time told in relation to Rod McKuen for instance? Who are reviews for – the writer or the reader? Are they crafted to deride the
composer or to educate the audience on a diction of positioning, a vocabulary of appraisal? Must we clap for every performer and with equal vigour? What’s wrong with hierarchies and elitism in relation to the distinction between those who have spent a dedicated lifetime creating their art and those who are incapable of giving the art the time, energy and ability it requires?
5/& finally, for today, OCD Crow wonders – what are we all so afraid of?