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!