Turn to each case of a thriving, vigorous poetry community and a common thread seems to emerge, not a prefabricated mass audience, not international acclaim, but rather a culture of frank talk and close engagement, vivid with ferocious, voracious arguments, unending discussions, even intellectual fist fights or several rival aesthetic camps. Most of all, there is a deep awareness—even if an antagonistic awareness—of one’s own poetic history. And that is where we fall short.
Poetry, then, does need readers, a community to survive; but it is the intensity and not the size of that community that matters. In an insipid poetry/literature scene, including one saturated with publicity, an inability to muster enough historical awareness, informed critique, ruthless honesty and close, complete reading means that we turn our hopes outward, in a wish for love and affirmation from an imaginary audience that never shows up.
The whole thing here.