Walt Whitman? Emily Dickenson? Adrienne Rich?
I have an anthology of Contemporary American Poets, and I don’t even know half of these people. Let alone the general populous of non-poetry reading folk. I’d suspect most people have heard of Walt Whitman, but they might think he’s only a bridge in Manhattan. I don’t know that it’s possible to be a known author any longer. Ah the cannon of literature! Does one have to die young and dramatically like Silvia Plath to be remembered and anthologized? I hope not.
For the new young voices, who are we, and can we exist? Exist in the same sense as Whitman, where our work will be taught in classrooms to yawning English high school students, and sink in to those few who feel awake around words? I read that Robert Bly went to school with…. and the list goes on and on. Names I know, names I’ve read, names I should know. (Worth asking, too, what of the friends who didn’t make the list, the poets that never made it past being Robert Bly’s roommate and into a name in a text book?)
Perhaps I’m in an odd mood, because I was reminded again today how young I am. So is my generation the one I’m in school with? I think so, but I don’t know. But poetry is barely read anyhow, so all of it is null and void, there won’t be a new poetic generation with voices and oh wow! what that school must have been like. There are a million books and 2 million writers and who knows who read them.
Bit of a rant, I suppose. Steeped in academia, I can’t help but wonder about the world everyone else lives in, and when (if) I’ll be returning.