John BR recently asked me "what's wrong with us?", following on from the same question in Angel Exhaust 20. Here's one answer: what's wrong with us is that we cling to the idea that there's an audience for contemporary poetry which doesn't consist of its practitioners. We also cling to the notion that this is a bad thing. We need to get used to the idea that the practice of poetry, at least in the US and Britain (and as far as I'm aware, in France) is no longer one where 'a poet' writes for his/her public. It's a participation sport. But "we" still retain an embarassment about that fact, and try to pretend, for example, that our publishing ventures are proper businesses. Maybe that was Salt's mistake (I see they've now had to venture into chick-lit fiction to balance the books).
"Innovative" poets, as much as anyone, still yearn for the poet-public paradigm, perhaps as a legacy of modernism. Witness this paragraph, from the otherwise excellent "Meaning Performance" from Tony Lopez
"There are always lots of poets who go in for competitions, belong to local writers' groups, and publish in small circulation magazines or vanity presses. They do no harm and they vanish in time."
Is it me, or does this sound like someone who thinks a select band of poets write the real stuff, and the myriad other scribblers ought to stop and listen to them? There are always lots of poets who go in for literary theory, belong to academic institutions, and publish with specialist presses and innovative magazines. They too do no harm, and, they (like all of us) vanish in time. In fact, the phenomenon Lopez comments on is the same one that sees thousands of creative writing graduates produced every year and poetry readings in Cambridge packed [sic] solely by poets. In neither case is this a bad thing, and in both cases it can produce exciting and beautiful poetry. It can also, in both cases, produce a lot of... OK let's not get negative.