And there we have a nasty externality not much talked about: the torque placed on the mission of poetry when there are large numbers of people with material entitlements to defend. Most of us are middle class, after all, and don’t like to think of ourselves as useless; therefore, some utilitarian benefit to poetry and the teaching of creative writing must be continually asserted. In the marketing copy of our time, poetry stops torture, poetry restores lost muscle tone, poetry removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As for what poetry actually does, it stands there gotten up in the fireman’s outfit, a beatific smile on its face, as the helmet slips over its eyes.
When I look at the bourgeois poets of another era, I am struck by how freely their art breathes without this burden of continual self-justification. Williams and Stevens had their usefulness seen to by their day jobs; on the page, they are relaxed in a way that now seems strange. It is very difficult to imagine the creative writing professors at Asshole State (to borrow a phrase from the late great Alan Dugan) coming out for poetry as the Supreme Fiction. It would seem irresponsible. Who gets paid to study the Supreme Fiction? People who get thrown up against the wall when the revolution comes, that’s who. D.H. Tracy, “D.H. Tracy and the Role of the Poet-Critic”. (via akeenerheart)