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April really is the cruellest month

Another National Poetry Month has come and gone. Poetry readings were held, pro-poetry posters pasted, collections launched. But does officially dedicating one month of the year to the joys of verse actually help the art form or its practitioners? In an acerbic editorial posted on the University of Chicago Press website, poet and critic Charles Bernstein argues that such promotions only weaken the form’s grip on the public imagination: “National Poetry Month is about making poetry safe for readers by promoting examples of the art form at its most bland and its most morally “positive.” The message is: Poetry is good for you.” Bernstein is not against National Poetry Month, per se, he just wants the promoters to highlight the artform’s strengths instead of trying to turn poetry into another entertainment product: “The only reason that poetry matters is that is has something different to offer, something slower on the uptake, maybe, but more intense for all that, and also something necessarily smaller in scale in terms of audience. Not better than mass culture but a crucial alternative to it.”

Related links:
Charles Bernstein’s poetry month editorial