. . . I reacted to a range of posts last night, and truth be told, the two threads aren't really all that separate for me--I do tend toward connection, rather than division.
Yes, there is a lot of overlap. Definitely confusing. And I agree about connection . . . although, as moderator-in-chief, I try to facilitate the organization of the forum so that anyone late to a conversation can still find what interests them.
Although, at this point, due to a current software limitation, I can only transplant my own posts, so these two threads get to run free now.
However, I feel that in accepting the social act of writing at the base, other things follow. Community is being talked about here (and there) in a lot of senses, but I guess I'm talking about something very fundamental, that is, connection with other humans. You don't get much more connected to being human than believing that language is worth preserving.
And that language comes with history, thus not just a sense of someone's listening, but of your listening to someone. At a foundational level, this is community. You enter the human community by ever even considering shaping those internal processes into a form that may be shared by others.
Of course, it appears this foundational level isn't what you're after at all, in this discussion spanning two threads, rather, you seem to be concerned with whether feedback, mostly in the form of MFA workshops (which I have never attended a single one...), are at all helpful.
Well, I wouldn’t say it isn’t what I’m after. I’ve very much interested in this foundational level of communication. But I guess my main point (on whichever thread I made my first statement on the poetry community) is that I think many poets tend to be under-vigilant in differentiating between a community and a club . . . mistakenly calling clubs “communities”. In my opinion there has been a lot of collateral damage resulting from this error in rhetoric: damage both to “outsider poets” and to the quality of poetry itself.
As for how this relates to MFA programs, I believe that the writing workshop is at the heart of this mistake giving a false and unhealthy impression of the creative experience. To over-simplify, the workshop downgrades the individual as creator and establishes a propaganda that places the group intelligence above the individual’s intelligence . . . even when the subject is knowing what’s best for the individual.
But this group doesn’t really have the individual’s welfare and betterment in mind. Rather, the group mind (in this case) is only adhering to a dogma, exhibiting a kind of workshop fundamentalism. That dogma, as it happens, under analysis shows itself to be a tool of the elite and destructive to any kind of poet who does not wish to become a part of that elite or abide by its doctrines . . . and also to those who are deemed unworthy to belong to the elite (based on club criteria).
Although I believe the workshop is the real breeding ground for this dissemination of propaganda and indoctrination, since it has had such a profound impact on poets in this country, the essence of the model becomes ingrained and carried over to the “poetry communities”.
I have only had (loose) associations with a few poetry communities, but I think many of my experiences were typical. The bond for these communities is frequently and primarily a matter of shared dogmas. I saw this happen especially in grad school, but also on this board at times. Membership to these club-communities depends upon how one was indoctrinated. In the grad school I attended, the gospel of choice was French poststructuralism (which remains pretty typical in English departments these days). Members didn’t have to be experts in it, but they had to be enamored of it, or at least entirely non-critical.
Those critical of this school of thought (as I was) were outcast from the club-community, ostracized. Now, being a moderately sane person, I found myself asking: “But what in the world does French intellectualism really
have to do with poetry?” That is, why should one’s theoretical tastes and background matter to poets talking about poetry and their experiences of creation? In my opinion, it shouldn’t.
But maybe my perspective is skewed, because I have a blacksheep intellectual background in Jungian analytical psychology (not very welcome in academia) and had grown accustomed to accommodating people with other ideologies (even when not reciprocated).
But I don’t mean to make French intellectualism the only criteria of membership to a poetry community (many poetry communities despise the stuff as much as I do). Another no-no then is criticizing the workshop system. Again, this has nothing to do with creation and is, I believe, something definitely worth analyzing . . . and yet, I found myself alienated among academic poets for merely questioning whether it was the best way to teach poetry writing.
And, once again, it would appear that what defines these club-communities is a shared and inviolable dogma, not a sense of cooperation or tolerance for individuals with similar experiences and interests. The dogma trumps the individual every time.
Fundamentalist dogmas tend to encourage unconsciousness . . . and unconsciousness engenders an us-and-them attitude. So, most of what these club-communities do is in the service of promoting “us” at the expense of “them” (if you are not with us, you’re against us).
So, I guess I would say that I think the key difference between a community and a club is that a community is made up of diverse individuals whose differences of opinion and individuality are tolerated, whereas a club lacks tolerance for otherness and individualism.
I am a big advocate of community as defined above, but a strong opponent of clubs. I’ve always seen myself as a pretty good litmus test for differentiating between the two, because very few groups will accept someone like me (who has numerous unusual and contrary/anti-power opinions and stances). And yet, I know that I am a decent cooperator, and that I a have genuine concern for and interest in others. That is, my only problematic quality is my individuality or non-believer status.
With this personal “experiment”, I’ve found that I’ve never been able to be a part of a group of poets with the only exception being Foetry (a real, although small, community and not a club).