Jocko Benoit's Writing and Pop Culture Spot

Perspectives on the arts and popular culture from Jocko (Jacques) Benoit. Scattered thoughts on poetry, books, film, television, and other cultural intersections.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cheating On Poetry

It had to happen after all these years. I mean before poetry there had been short fiction. And even after I committed to poetry I would sometimes wander off to write an occasional story or maybe even lose a couple of weeks with a screenplay. Poetry wasn’t possessive. It would often show up unannounced and distract me from work. It would come to me in the shower or in those wispy waking moments.

I guess things started to slide a few years ago when I realized that no matter how hard or how often I tried, publishers would never accept my relationship with poetry. I was an interloper not good enough for their prized daughter. No matter that poetry still came to me and so often resurrected all those old feelings, I would put down the pen and the brief high from writing would pass more quickly than it used to. Were we just star-crossed?

Lately I’ve taken up with photography and I’ve been feeling those things that were once commonplace with poetry – the sense of time rushing by, the giddiness at doing something that seems irresponsible and even bad. The ideas for new pictures keep coming and there’s always a place like Flickr where I can post my latest work and get some feedback. Photography (especially digital) is so immediate, whereas with poetry I can’t really get a sense of a poem until I’ve introduced it to an audience at a reading.

Am I upset with poetry to be doing something like this? I don’t think so. I’m upset with a publishing industry that is too narrow-minded, too anxious that poetry be protected like some nature preserve or the silence at a memorial service. Like any other relationship, so much depends on the family.

Meanwhile, all I can think about these days is when I’ll have my next chance to take some pictures – to get at photography’s buttons and peel veils of light from the ever-so-shy day.