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On Garrison Keillor's Good Poems [US]:
Are we not yet adult enough as a culture to acknowledge that the arts are not for everyone, and that bad art is worse than no art at all; and that good or bad, art's exclusive function is to entertain, not to improve or nourish or console, simply entertain. [...]

It is worth reflecting during National Poetry Month that creative writing, over the past forty years, has subsumed American poetry and become a 250-million-dollar industry, a rather seamy industry, and an off-shoot of the rather seamy Human Potential Movement industry. American poetry is now an international joke. And not just internationally: American novelists, nonfiction writers, scholars, the enlightened general reader who a generation ago read poetry as a matter of course, for pleasure, rarely attend to it anymore. [...]

Let me put it starkly: the better animals in the jungle aren't drawn to poetry anymore, and they're certainly not tuned in to Keillor's Writer's Almanac. Just as the new genre of the novel drew off most of the brilliant young writers of the nineteenth century, movies, television, MTV, advertising, rock 'n' roll, and the internet have taken the best among the recent crop of young talent. Do you suppose for a moment that a spirited youngster with a brilliant, original mind and gifted up the yin-yang is going to sit still for two years of creative writing poetry workshops presided over by a dispirited, compromised mediocrity, all the while critiquing and being critiqued by younger versions of the same? [...]

(I missed it the first time around.)
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At 6:09 AM, Blogger Lyle Daggett replied:

Great article (I followed the link to the full article and read it through). I live in Minnesota (source of Garrison Keillor's broadcasts, or at least originally -- I guess he takes the show on the road a lot now) -- and become mildly ill whenever I accidentally come across Keillor on the radio. No, life isn't really like that here...

The one quibble I have with Kleinzahler's article is his comment that the function of art is to entertain.

I agree rather with Muriel Rukeyser as she stated it in The Life of Poetry (and I'm paraphrasing just slightly here):

The difference between art and entertainment is that art tries to get us to concentrate on what it's bringing to us, and entertainment tries to distract us from what it's not bringing to us.    



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