That’s what Olena Kalytiak Davis asked when she blogged for the Poetry Foundation last September. So, are poets bad motherfuckers? Are they different from anybody else? Call me an optimist, but I think we all have our “poetry.” We all have our thing that we are intrinsically interested and invested in. And by that definition, rhetoricians are bad motherfuckers too. We’re all bad motherfuckers. As long as we invest ourselves in exploring the things that truly interest us, hell, geek out on those things, then we are some bad motherfuckers.
But poetry specifically. Let’s talk about that. Olena (oh yes, I’m going with the first name [attribute it to being a bad motherf______–my mother doesn’t like it when I say that word]) asks in her post, “are we living our lives differently? better? or are we just making stupid poetry ‘moves’?.”
Is it not those “stupid poetry moves” that contain the persuasiveness of poetry? James Longenbach writes in his book, The Resistance To Poetry:
[T]he marginality of poetry is in many ways the source of its power, a power contingent on poetry’s capacity to resist itself more strenuously than it is resisted by the culture at large.
Throughout this entire book, Longenbach emphasizes that the audience of poetry interacts with that particular genre because we find enjoyment in the challenge. Yes, poetry can be difficult, but, to quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, “the hard is what makes it great.” (Heck yeah, I just dropped an eighteen year old movie reference on you.)
So, aren’t those poetry moves absolutely pertinent to poetry? If poets stopped choosing to persuade their audience in the way that they do, then, at that moment, wouldn’t they stop being bad motherfuckers?