Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ron Silliman on Gaza

In today's post, poet Ron Silliman--probably the blogosphere's most popular poet-blogger--addresses the recent horrors in Gaza. My gratitude to him for bringing his political and poetic thoughts to this matter--especially given the risks of saying anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As many of us konw all too well, any public critic of any aspect of Israeli policy risks being branded an anti-Semite.

I don't share his level of pessmism about the prospects for peace, but he states the core unresolvables succinctly. For those who don't know Ron's poetry and life, he worked for a long time in the prison rights movement along with writing some of the most experimentally challenging poems of his time. After laboring in some degree of obscurity (as with many of his cohort, the so-called "language school" of poetry), the internet has given him a kind of mini-celebrity. Silliman's Blog is a platform upon which Ron makes an argument for an alternative tradition of poetry, one that constantly challenges the normative values of what he called "the School of Quietude" (a term from Edgar Allan Poe). It's good to see that one of the eminence-grises of the avant-garde is not also in the School of Quietude when it comes to political nightmares of the 21st century.

One final note: the Feneon Collective, which I imagine to be the work of poets like David Baptiste Chirot and Kent Johnson, has made their critique of the silence of poets (and our damnable professionalism) in these grave times explicit. I hope never to mistake the business of poetry (the PoBiz, as some are wont to call it) with the vocation of Poetry.

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