Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

I've decided that I'm just not that interested in how a poem is written or where the material for a poem comes from. I've grown increasingly annoyed with lengthy, pre-reading spiels or excessive notes in the front matter of books describing the mechanisms and sources of the subsequent poetry. I mean, as a poet, I'm interested. In fact, I'm endlessly interested in exactly this kind of thing. But this is fodder for poetry buddy talk; save it for your poetry buddies. As a reader/listener, not only do I not care, it actively ruins the poetry for me. The magic is gone. We should take a cue from actual magicians and refrain from answering the age-old question, "How'd you do that?"


The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Elvis etc. didn't doff their cap to the blues artists they borrowed/stole from before every song on an album. Rappers don't say, "This hook is brought to you by Funkadelic." The director of a movie doesn't explain how the special effects were done before the movie begins, etc. Of course they discuss this in interviews and outtakes and DVD extras and all that, but not so that it interferes with the audience's actual experience of the art. Or maybe they do and they either do it better, or it doesn't annoy me as much because I'm not a rapper or director. And I'm not talking about a brief contextualizing statement about a work before it is performed. I'm talking about an extensive explanation that is often longer than poem.


Some poets seem to wear this as a badge of honor...this disclosure. And in an era of transparency-chic, I understand the impulse. Perhaps poetry is the most puritanical of the arts and we still haven't quite  gotten comfortable in our collagist role, borrowing and appropriating (Warhol, Johns, etc.). Or maybe we haven't come to terms with new-ish techniques that render the lone wolf genius a myth (Koons). But I think it is high time that we all turn to one another, acknowledge that we all steal lines from the greats and our friends, that we all have access to Google and other means of contemporary invention, that we all have access to research, etc. and just relax, read the poem, and get to the booze portion of the evening, the part of the evening where I actually enjoy the poetry buddy talk.