Sunday, January 27, 2013
I'm 60 years old, and I enjoy being annoyed. So I'm sending out a special "thank you" to those who, sporadically or consistently, provide me with instances of annoyance.
Occasionally, I come across calls to submit for poetry imprints and journals construed along thematic or ideological lines. This is annoying. But don't get me wrong. I'm okay with publishing houses that, now and then, produce a volume devoted to a given general theme. Nothing wrong with that. Such a thing can be neat-o and interesting (up to a point). What's delightfully irksome are those houses built completely around a literary agenda. Such as:
"We're not interested in the finest written art, as such. No, we're interested in audacity and our program of superior, avant-garde, embittered politics or identity. All poems must be about teapots, and conveyed with shocking verbal gestures. If you write subtly on wombats, we'll sniff and bid you good day."
Someone like Tomas Tranströmer need not submit. Any approaching his caliber of consciousness and poetical élan (merely the finest written art, as such) shall be rebuffed and rejected if theme doesn't pass through filter.
This is not to say that an imprint or journal can't have a particular literary personality or aura. Maybe it wishes to exude a European, Russian, Asian, or American vibe and character. But even that is a little annoying. Artistic vision and quality of utterance should be the only criteria for any serious, self-respecting editor.
Yes, this topic is annoying to me and keeps me fired up. It maintains the flow of my mental juices. Sensibility continues to be sharpened against the coarse surface of pretentious wrongheadedness.