Sunday, November 09, 2008


Robert Archambeau, one of my favourite poet bloggers, writes an engaging post about the left-wingishness of poets. (I, of course, share that left-wingishness, as does he.) In an essay in this November's Poetry, he delves further into the issue. He asks why contemporary poets, in their "totalizing visions", are "overwhelmingly left-leaning". For me the reason is dead simple: poets, and artists in general, are not into making money. Nor are we into the power and status symbols that go with. We're not businessmen. Nor are we (save for rare exceptions) soldiers, nor policemen. It's no accident that most of us are teachers. Our ideal lifestyle is one of comparatively modest means that avails us the time and resources to create art, raise children if we have them, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. By a kind of projection, our ideal society would be one where such means are available to all. Hence a kind of soft socialism -- social security and health benefits for everyone, a healthy environment, a solid educational system (well, it does employ most of us, among other things), funding for the arts (it's also the hand that feeds us), freedom from war and exploitation -- as a direct corollary. All sounds rather cushy, doesn't it? But we're also free thinkers -- so we're into freedom of expression, critical thinking, a [usually] vaguely defined libertarianism. It seems to me also that the artist's focus on feelings and on the drama of human suffering lends itself to the compassionate values of the left. Anyway, Archambeau's self-admittedly rambling essay sheds some light -- mostly through quotes, interesting citations -- onto this rather self-evident state of affairs.

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