Shape-shifting Values and Meaning in Society
poetry cannot change the course of the world
no more than dogs barking away rain
fish dreaming of clouds
© Aleah Sato
For those of you who don't know me that well, I am also a poet. If I could choose to do anything - absolutely anything - and make a living at it, it would be working as a poet.
Writing poetry and being taken seriously is an arduous task. Calling yourself a poet is even more ridiculous. Most poets refer to themselves as writers and are fairly resigned to the fact that they will never make money with their craft of choice.
Further to this, most publishing houses stopped accepting poetry, as illustrated in this article by Behlor Santi:
"It's too bad," says Rankovic, "but just about the time I became a mature poet-in the late 1980s-publishers became obsessed with the bottom line." Big New York houses stopped publishing original poetry collections, leaving the job to university and small presses. Since most poetry collections don't exactly put Random House and HarperCollins in the billionaires' club, the decision to not publish and promote them makes financial sense. Why publish something that the public doesn't buy?Santi then goes on to list periodicals that insist on compensating poets for their contributions in the same way they would compensate someone for an article or short story.
In the end, improving the state of poetry depends a lot on you, the poet. Think beyond lit journals, consider yourself an artist and a businessperson. You should live life fully, write about your life fully, and not starve.
This stunned me - I, too, have learned to believe that my craft was useless and I deserved nothing for the time and love I put into it.
This mindset of impoverishment happens all the time. It is how cultures get eradicated. It is how traditional arts are lost to the fray.
One of our designers is getting ready to embark on a work/study vacation in Belize. Part of the vacation is spent immersed in the traditions of the indigenous peoples, learning from them the crafts of the land, along with providing compensation to the community for their time and teachings (all monies are shared among the villagers).
This had me thinking about dreams, either the dreams of our own making - from childhood - or our collective dreams of craft and tradition. I believe that our sense of purpose and identity are rooted in the dreams we created in youth as well as those we've inherited from the family/society we grow up in.
North Americans are increasingly restless with the void we have handed ourselves as adults. It is evident in the resurgence of tradition as seen in trends like "home-made," "primitive," "natural" and "organic." It is threading its way through our hobbies; knitting is incredibly popular. I'd venture to say the push for "older, simpler" ideals is the vehicle of (misleading) ideology among conservative politicians.
Point being: dreams have incredible weight. Meaning creates value. Value, as it has been, is being reassessed by consumers.
When I write poetry, I should look at it not for what it lacks (monetary value) but for what it provides - the meaning that shapes my life and hopefully the lives of others.
I'm curious, what delights you? What would you do if value only implied meaning?