Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Poet is In & Bhagat's toys are Taken Away

Mainly because I refuse to use the word 'random' to describe my posts, even though that is precisely what this is:

1. Approaching the question of poems and ownership from a completely different place, this post. Holly S. Morrison sits at a Farmer's Market (with a sign that says The Poet is In, as if she were in a Peanuts comic) and writes custom poems that people buy from her. And yet:

I browsed the honey and beeswax candles at a neighboring table while Holly began clacking away on her manual typewriter. And I found myself reflecting on her smiling response to the final question I had asked her: she doesn’t keep copies of the poems for herself. I found myself feeling an unexpected pang of jealousy at this detachment, this acceptance of letting poems go, as if I had encountered a monk making a sand mandala, or the street sax player in Joni Mitchell’s classic song, “For Free.”

Though I write for free and Holly writes for money, I only give away the writing of the poem; she relinquishes the right to keep the poem. Many contemporary poets might feel that selling poems devalues our art. But it seems to me that Holly’s approach to poetry also participates in the sublime economy Lewis Hyde describes in The Gift, the classic book that helped so many artists better understand their art and taught me, in my twenties, how to survive as a poet.

According to Hyde, the function of art is to participate in a sacred gift economy that links giver, receiver, and the spiritual world. Art’s gift offers contemporary humans an essential alternative to the deadening commercial system. But in practice, it’s not so simple for a poet to give away the gift of poetry nowadays. Those who receive our gifts tend to be limited to critics, students, or other poets; the gifts of a “professional” poet get tangled up in names, reputations, career obligations, and previous bodies of work.

By selling one-of-a-kind poems and not even keeping a copy, Holly moves poetry out of the literary economy in which so many contemporary poems are enmeshed. Instead, she moves it along into the lush marketplace of daily life where all of us can meet on a human footing, helping each other satisfy our needs for life’s irreplaceable gifts of food and beauty and meaning.

2. So there was the ToI Lit Carnival held recently in Bombay. Wish I'd been at the Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Chetan Bhagat session (I'd have been happy to have taken everyone else but Hanif out of the picture but hey - I'm sure I'm not the only one). It seems to have been pretty hilarious:

You know what? I can't quote anything specific from it. It is full of deliciousness, so go read.

Hint: Bhagat's toys are taken away.


km said...

If Chetanfreude is not a word, it totally should be.

Banno said...

The man performed the incredible acrobatic feat of sliding down his own mouth. :)

aandthirtyeights said...

I <3 Mohammad Hanif!

Space Bar said...

km: ha! nice!

banno: were you an eyewitness? Were you filming it all for posterity?

mami: join the queue!

dipali said...

I love the thought of poems being custom made and then being given away so totally to the buyer! Truly whimsical!
Mr.Bhagat seems to have made a complete and utter ass of himself!