Tuesday, January 15, 2008

(anti-)school of quietude

Here's a poem I found in the Nation, submitted by George Cuomo. It has a long title (in bold below) and the body of the poem is one line.

- - -

Poem in Honor of Poets
Who Form Schools
Deliver Manifestoes
Name Generations
Chant Slogans
Praise Each Other
And Roar in Cellar Saloons

They also serve who only sit and write.

- - -

Cuomo (born 1929 and apparently still around) published eight novels, a bunch of short stories, some poetry (haven't found any yet), and at least one book of nonfiction. When he published this angry ditty in the Nation he hadn't yet published his first novel; that was Jack Be Nimble of 1963. Given that his main characters - e.g. a small-time criminal caught up in a brutal prison riot - would seem to befit the anti-establishment aesthetic of the poetry he attacks in his poem, I'm guessing that by the time was publishing in novels, real '60s fiction, he had changed his mind or tempered his view. Or perhaps what was okay in fiction wasn't in verse. Or perhaps he's really merely expressing his preference for the introverted life of writers who write rather than affiliate and proclaim themselves.

Nation May 2, 1959, p. 146.