Against National Poetry Month

March 31, 2006
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jacket imageCharles Bernstein is one of America’s liveliest advocates and practitioners of radically inventive poetry. So why does he have a beef with National Poetry Month? A nationwide celebration of his craft during the entire month of April—what’s not to like? Plenty, says Bernstein. In an essay titled "Against National Poetry Month As Such&quot he writes:

National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally "positive." The message is: Poetry is good for you. But, unfortunately, promoting poetry as if it were an "easy listening" station just reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way. "Accessibility" has become a kind of Moral Imperative based on the condescending notion that readers are intellectually challenged, and mustn’t be presented with anything but Safe Poetry. As if poetry will turn people off to poetry.

Read the rest of "Against National Poetry Month As Such."

Bernstein is perhaps best known as one of the founders of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry movement of the 1970s. He is the author of My Way: Speeches and Poems and With Strings. Sometimes comic, sometimes dark, Bernstein’s writing is irreverent but always relevant, "not structurally challenged, but structurally challenging."
Visit Charles Bernstein’s Web site.

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