Sunday, March 21, 2010

Canada has no unseemly competition?

....all Canadian poets of merit are awarded a large annual stipend. We got universal health care; we keep our poets fed. Our top ranking poets are granted official government positions. Like Neruda, we get to be ambassadors and attaches and that sort of stuff...
Seriously. I found that comment in the box after Jim Behrle's piece on the Poetry Foundation a while back. Behrle's piece is very relevant, I might add, and I think particularly relevant to the kind of posturing that goes on in comment streams, something Brenda Schmidt muses on here... and I would argue that this is also true for rhetorical strategies...

There is so little at stake in the poetry world that it all seems a bit ridiculous, but nonetheless, it's there. I agree with Rhea Tregebov that health care and quality of life are basically like having a minimum income, but her statement above really made me shake my head. Really? "all Canadian poets of merit..."

This may be satire. I may not have read the tone well. Here's the entire comment:
On March 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm Rhea Tregebov wrote:
Mr. Behrle's article makes me grateful that I live in Canada where writing programs are scarcer and, as a consequence, competition sparser. As a consequence, all Canadian poets of merit are awarded a large annual stipend. We got universal health care; we keep our poets fed. Our top ranking poets are granted official government positions. Like Neruda, we get to be ambassadors and attaches and that sort of stuff. I know you've now got Obama, but our doors are still open to those desperate to escape. Come on up north. (We play hockey better too.)
Love this advice too:
I'll bet Mary Oliver outsells everyone
including Jewel!! The secret? Don't use big
words and soak your poems in sugar-
water.
Diana Manister

18 comments:

Jonathan Ball said...

What the fuck is Tregebov talking about?

Jonathan Ball said...

I don't mean that to be insulting to her, I'm honestly confused.

Chris Banks said...

I think Tregebov is simply using hyperbole to suggest that dedicated Canadian poets-- and by that I simply mean poets who go about the serious business of writing poetry and culling together a manuscript -- have more options to publish in Canada, and that our more senior poets are perhaps more proportionally talked about in the media and thus have name recognition because of CBC radio. I'm not sure what she is really talking about. It's a befuddling statement but it is also from a comment stream. Perhaps it was a little quick-on-the-draw as such comments can be. I like Tregebov as a poet so who is to say what she means. I do know an American friend of mine who has an absolutely outstanding manuscript of a first collection with poems that have been published in several big American periodicals and journals, yet he cannot find a publisher for it. That I find befuddling too.

Lemon Hound said...

I agree, Chris, I don't think it's ill-intentioned, and as someone who spent a good deal of time in the poetry communities on both sides of the border I am well aware of the pros and cons.

But like any chunk of text it reveals certain assumptions about a kind of poetry and its value in this country among other things...

Chris Banks said...

Yes, as a statement it can be read as devaluing, if unintentionally, what is a thriving Canadian poetry community.

Lemon Hound said...

Like Neruda, we get to be ambassadors and attaches and that sort of stuff...

Maybe there's something going on that we don't know about? Maybe we are simply not the "poets of consequence" or the "top ranking" poets?

georgemurray said...

I was baffled to see this. As someone who HAS been funded to the tune a salary a bunch of times, I'm always surprised and thankful to get anything. The idea of telling, or even inferring to, others, especially those outside our borders, that federal grants are anything but a cross between skill and a lottery (not in terms of the poets chosen so much in terms of which jurors are doing the choosing) is problematic and a little sketchy.

Lemon Hound said...

Chris, it's true that there are so many poets walking around with publication ready manuscripts in the US and nowhere to publish, but those same people often buy into a hierarchy of publishing houses too.

I had a friend who carried a ms. around for over a decade, paying off her heavy student loans for her MFA at NYU to work with Sharon Olds on her manuscript and looking for a teaching job.

Though I can say that she wouldn't let just anyone publish the ms. either though, wanted to win a prize, one of several would have done, but she wasn't about to just let any old press have her ms.

It's complicated.

We have some of that too...but we also have more funding for publishing. Much more.

Lemon Hound said...

She may be thinking of Atwood, who is a kind of unofficial Ambassador.

georgemurray said...

Doesn't Peggy make her own money? Hardly govt subsidized, I'd wager. And she's not definitely not "all" of us.

Rhea Tregebov said...

Oh dear, folks. Sorry to cause such confusion. I should stick to writing sad poetry. I thought I was being funny. Trying to do the "talking to Americans" thing and giving them false info about heaven here in Canada, how we're all overpaid and over honoured. I really did NOT get the tone right. Rhea

Lemon Hound said...

Rhea,
Sorry to shine the wrong spot light...I really couldn't tell.

It is funny once the tone is clarified.

Sina

Rhea Tregebov said...

Hey, Sina, really it was me not writing clearly, and writing clearly is supposed to be my job. I should stay away from blogs. I'm too old. I was looking for articles for my grad poetry class next year, which had me reading Behrle's carefully. It was so cynical and funny I found myself wanting to engage in the conversation in a similar tone, but I think it's now obvious to everyone that this is not something I'm good at. Oh well. Rhea

georgemurray said...

Doh. Being a sarcastic bastard, I should have seen that.

Lemon Hound said...

Well, I'm apparently not very good at it either...but that's another matter.

I do hope it won't stop you from commenting...

alexleslie said...

That's pretty hilarious Rhea. Tone bang-on or not =)

Fiction writers have gold-plated servant monkeys. Just saying.

Elizabeth said...

Rhea -- it made me snort with laughter: "Like Neruda, we get to be ambassadors and attaches and that sort of stuff."

Stuff indeed.

Please don't stay away from blogs!

Rhea Tregebov said...

Eh, I think I'm pretty much done with them blog comments. But not reading them... Rhea