The Poet as Terrorist!
The morpheme, commodity, immediately rings a high-school bell, where the Economics teacher would initiate call-and-response in slow fragmented, syllabic and sing-song accentuation rounded off by his echoing students:
Heavy pause; then he would emphasise the economic weight of the intoned fragments by quickly taking a deep breath and aiming for a rhyming call with:
The message had been clear: goods, Commodity in economic parlance, are the central reason for the study of Economics; and the simple arithmetic of their buying and selling as it relates to value or Utility. If a good has no utility there would be no point in thinking of selling or buying it. And goods come in multifarious ways. In a hard-nosed capitalist sense any object or idea that has ‘value’ – monetary or otherwise – and that can be exchanged as such is a ‘commodity’. The corollary to this is that once a good or idea depreciates in value its status as a commodity is in jeopardy.
Although poetry does have some value, both as an idea and as a commodity, most publishers dive for cover when a poetry manuscript walks through their doors. It is like the so-called suicide bomber coming to lunch!
“Hello, I am a poet!”
And all the security alarm bells in publishers’ foyers ring stridently from London to New York to Toronto and Johannesburg. Or –
“Hello, I am Cinna ‘da’ poet!”
“Kill him for his bad verses!”
Unfortunately for the publisher there are too many ‘Cinnas’ around. His paths are strewn with bad poems, pretensions to poetry, limericks and witticisms…many-headed monsters that pursue him in his nightmares. It is a desperate enough situation to have real careful poets in the house at all, how much more horrifying a poetaster or rhymester. So there has to be security measures put in place to keep these terrorists in check. The usual rejection slip does not do the trick anymore nor does warnings by publishers that ‘we are not considering poetry manuscripts for the next two centuries!’ The worst of these guerrillas are the bad poets with an ego! It reminds one of Dylan Thomas crying out in a drunken stupor:
‘I am a worthy cause!’
Well, at least Thomas threatened and delivered. He was not just the talking terrorist. He blew things up! He wrote great poetry when he was not trying to kill the bottle – “Death by Drowning” would be a befitting epitaph; drowning in his own vomit, that is. But the poetaster…we are considering a bad poet who thinks he is Eliot and Pound combined with a little dash of Walcott for good measure. Such a one is a walking time bomb, ready to crash any petulant publisher’s bedroom, manuscript pointed like a missile at our poor friend’s head!
“Publish or perish!”
‘The axis of evil’ that is bad poetry and fat egos, the vanity or alternative presses and liberal pot-head patrons who promote them, are under attack by the coalition forces of Publishers for Profit Incorporated. And the battle is being fought on all fronts, with editors in the avant-garde of Homeland security. Those poets who slip through border controls would have proven through years of endured physical torture, extreme poverty, and the dedication of a madman that they qualify! Then they are wheeled around in mannequin pirouette to expose the flesh of their commodification.
Sentinel Poetry (Online) #45. August 2006 ISSN 1479-425X
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF POETRY & GRAPHICS...since December 2002
Editor: Amatoritsero Ede