“[I]f you look at the dozens and hundreds of anthologies of contemporary USA poetry published over the past two decades, you’ll find compilations of poems or poets gathered and linked to represent many categories of differentiation and distinction,
with one exception. There are no anthologies based on class.”
This powerful observation comes from today’s installment of Bill Knott’s blog. [Note: The large break is in Knott’s original post]
He goes on to wonder specifically no “anthology of rich poets, poets who came from a background of wealth and privilege.” This is one of Knott’s favorite axes to grind, and I think it would make terrific fodder for an eye-opening Ph.D thesis. And imagine an anthology that grouped poets this way (using today’s statistics; statistics would have to be adjusted to reflect income distribution during the poets’ childhoods):
Rich Poets: $500,000+
Upper Middle Class Poets: $100,000-499,000
Lower Middle Class Poets: $35,000-99,000
Working Class Poets: $16,000-34,000
Working Poor Poets: Under $15,900
I wonder what commonalities and dissonances we might find within and between groups. Might it not accomplish what Knott would like to do? That is, wipe out once and for all the notion and art is somehow separate from life?
Or would it reinforce the idea that only art is completely egalitarian—the Reginald Shepherd notion that art can free one from “identity”—race, sexual preference, class, etc.? Would we see a kind of intellectual mobility that is missing from our everyday, class-bound lives?
Now there’s a grand project for the Library of America!