The Conspiracy Against Growing the Hell Up Already

So Adam Fieled wants to “take up cudgels” against the “outré,” the “ethnic,” and the “deviant,” because they constitute a “conspiracy” against “consensus opinions... borne out or subtly shifted over long periods of time.” But don’t leap to accusations of “regressive conservatism”; it’s just that in today’s world, “the way forward is the way back” because “it must be.”

Okay, that’s a cheap shot, but not that cheap. Those quotes aren’t that far out of context: Fieled really does link “the ethnic and the deviant” as the two things that “political correctness” gravitates towards (which means that “deviant” stands for what here—gays, women, outsider art, all of those?). And the essay contains a quantity of metaphoric violence that would make Marinetti blush, all starting fires and burning things to the ground and building on the ashes.

Here would be a less cheap response, and the reason why I normally try to abstain from responding to this kind of thing at all: The entire argument that poetry has “has ceased to be itself” because there’s a lot of it you don’t like should be embarrassingly solipsistic. I happen to read a heck of a lot of poetry that I like all the time, and I bet a lot of it is exactly the stuff that Fieled thinks is “moribund.” Some of those “grayish fortresses” he wants “burnt to the ground” happen to have people living in them, you know. Somehow, though, he seems to feel that the world would be objectively better if he could displace those people to make more room for himself. Poetry becomes a weird kind of aesthetic colonization, a zero-sum game in which the would-be conqueror's personal satisfaction is equated with the right alignment of the universe.

If Fieled wants to see a different kind of poetry in the world, all he has to do is write it, or spread it where he finds it in the writing of others. These are activities that I gather he’s participated in, and none of them require him to destroy the work of others to make room—as should be evident from his own healthy list of publications, apparently none of which were canceled in order to publish an extra book by (I’m guessing here, since he doesn’t name any names) Kenneth Goldsmith or Ron Silliman. Seeing poetry you don’t like isn’t a reason for a revolution; it’s a reason to go read a different book.

This kind of attitude is so prevalent, and I find it really frustrating and depressing. Maybe I should set fire to it?

(A much funnier response to similar attitudes that everyone should read is here.)