I use Google Reader to stream posts from the too-many blogs I follow, which is good because some bloggers post something maybe a little too piquant or politically incorrect and then delete their entries—but Google Reader displays them anyway. The post is gone when you click through, but the original is there in Reader. Bill Knott, who I admire a lot, does the post/delete routine fairly frequently. Now that he has a “Bad” prose blog and a “Good” prose blog (dealing with negative rants and positive comments respectively), he may be posting and then deciding the post belongs on the other blog.* But sometimes these things disappear forever. I fear this may be the case with the following Knott post from yesterday. I hope he won’t mind if I quote it here:
Bill Knott May 20, 2012 9:18 AM
Isn’t it small-minded, and conservative, and in bad taste,
for poets to write screeds in favor of their own ideas and procedures,
to manifesto in essays and ‘position’ papers and such
their approach to the practice of the art.
It’s vulgar to say the least—
How boorish to be so self-defensive
the esthetic choices one has made (or is making)
in the course of one’s artistic career.
This explains why I’ve always hated manifestos. Why I can’t read one without focusing almost entirely on what it leaves out, distorts, or exaggerates. Go ahead. Reread Breton, or Marinetti, or Olson, or Clover & Spahr, or any of the several chest-thumpings put forward with a wink and a nudge in Poetry. All those egos rattling the bars of their cribs! All those five-year-olds screaming, “Mommy! Daddy! Look at me! Look at me!”
Vulgar is the word indeed.
On the subject of manifestos, I have to stand with Montale, in Cuttlefish Bones: “All I can tell you now is this: / what we are not, what we do not want.”
* Just before queuing this to post I tried to visit both of Knott’s prose blogs, but they are gone. Only his art blog, as of this moment, remains active. Here’s hoping Knott restores them both!