I launched into reading this article with an expectation of yet another clash of fundamentalisms, of the sort that has plagued Bangladeshi poet Taslima Nasrin. The outlines were familiar: a lecturer, one Sanjay M G, is attacked for reciting a poem “with ‘objectionable content….’ ” But it turns out the content involved a slur against a long-deceased political leader, Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire (d. 1680). Moreover, “ ‘Many staff members have been waiting for an opportunity to beat up Sanjay and this was an opportunity,” was what a senior faculty member had to say.’ ”
Suddenly it occurred to me that an Indian-style approach to poetry readings might enliven them here in the U.S. Ron Silliman’s “crew” could storm a Ted Kooser reading and pelt the former Poet Laureate with sentence fragments and pithy non sequiturs. Robert Hass and his “School of Quietude” thugs could sneak up on Charles Bernstein at his podium, form something like a prayer circle and overwhelm him with sincere childhood memories and allusions to French philosophers.
Maybe, in short, American poetry needs a fresh infusion of brutality….