Sunday, March 29, 2009

PoemUnderWorld: The Death of Poetry and Its ReBirth

The Poem is dead! And so are its Poets. The great historical promenade that has overshadowed to overtake us is no more. Poets turned mythic by time, that great alchemizer, who created once-fresh, once-new works are gone! But still we are haunted by them. We are told to marvel at their works, cadaverous poems propped up in rotting anthologies and musty journals, untouchable & immutable in their agedness to the pedestrian reader—we are told. After a poem is born, if it ages well, it is killed by the Academy of Undertakers, plucked & stuffed, then displayed in the Graveyard of the Canon. They stare at us with glazes from gassy eyes, the life sucked out of them, taken down sometimes to be dusted off then beaten senseless with questions: What did you mean when you said—Who are your accomplices—Explain yourself!
A curious thing, admiration; a curiouser thing, vengeance: for those who can’t do punish those who did. The time has come to off them all. The Poems, the Poems, in musty old tomes, we’ve come to settle the score. No—we’ve come to kill you once more. No! We’ve come to feed on your gore. The Poems are dead, but there’s life in them still—it is our job to give them the proper burial and let their bodies decay into the soil to be sucked up into budding new life that gives birth to new poems. Do we embalm our ancestors and esteem their tombs more highly than our children’s houses? No! We pay tribute to them by living and (pro)creating—therefore we will acknowledge from whence and from whom we came and birth new children that may resemble them (a nose here, the curve of the lip, unfortunate ears) but they will be of our own creation.
But we will not merely wait for the soil to suck nutrients from their decayed corpses to feed the Poetic Rhizome, we will suck the flesh from the fingers themselves. Chop old Poems, stripped of their fat, and bake them into new poem pies, splatter their blood on the walls and eat their hearts and intestines. We must be irreverent! For this is the reverence they demand. Rotting in the realm of High Art is no tribute, and coffins of books are no Afterlife. For life is cyclical, and the death of a poem is not to be mourned but celebrated, for new life will spring from it!
We must remember that a poem is true as a life is true—it is part artifice, part reality, and at its best, true to itself. Perhaps in its later incarnations, a poem will come closer to Truth, though surely the Truth it seeks will be different. The form it takes will be different, as well—it might be found useful to mimic the earlier forms, but newly birthed poetry will not be bound by form or genre. The birthright of this new poetry is all genres, all forms, the past and present, looking to the future—for we will not cannibalize old meat exclusively. The poem will be fed from many sources—namely new sources unavailable to our predecessors; we will mine everything from the quotidian to the most advanced technology, and create life from death before we become shadows ourselves!


  1. I enjoy this! Especially the "!"s. It makes me excited! And I think it gives the manifesto a tangible persona. If I were a manifesto, I'd probably be "!" too. And the language throughout "snaps, crackles, and pops" as I heard James Reiss once say about a poem with similarly fiery tones.

    I love that you've addressed the old vs. new dilemma. It's a dilemma and I feel as though we haven't talked about it productively at all in the department up to this point. My favorite phrase is "cadaverous poems propped up in rotting anthologies." There really is so little difference between "canonized" and "cannibalized" and I think that this connection is attention-grabbing, to say the least.

  2. Interesting how you talk about poets/poems as cannibals, too -- Let's make a movement!

    Really liked this -- impressed by your ability to extend the metaphor so long, although your use of metaphor might be problematic. Specifically, I'm wondering if it's through metaphor we are to "bury" (and resurrect?) the old poems -- Is it through metaphor poems come closer to the truth? WCW would say no but maybe you don't care about him :)

    Also -- are you suggesting a sort of found-text process, specifically using old poetry? Maybe you could pull out of the metaphor every once in awhile to clarify?


  3. I think that this is my favorite among the manifestos I've read. Mainly, I see the piece's unique persona as the main factor in this. The personality that is speaking offers something that I couldn't offer in my pseudo-scientific manifesto.

    While the persona is extreme, and an issue might be the reader's trusting of an extremist voice, I find no issue (I'm sure that most poets wouldn't). In fact, I am greatly instructed by what seems at first to be an entertainment.

    The only thing I could say, as regards constructive criticism of the piece, is that you could get more specific as to how this cannibalism could work (within example). To cannibalize an actual poem in the manifesto might be a great way to further embody what is an already-great concept (explored thoroughly). Just an idea.

    --Jade H.