Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Larval Poets Manifesto

Poetry where I live has achieved a state of universal marginality.

It is written anonymous into notebooks cached in the woods. It appears on bulletin boards. It is self-published in hundreds of chapbooks, few of which will ever exist in a hundred copies. Events and groups gather around it. And very little of this activity seems to have anything to do with the profession of poetry, which as I understand it involves getting published and getting a job as a teacher of poetry. Which is a worthy thing to do, but clearly can't be done by everyone.

In conditions of universal overproduction, why should anyone write? Why should anyone read?

I'm unwilling to think of poetry as a pyramid. There is already more good poetry written than anyone could read in a lifetime. We don't have to do violence to our sense of aesthetics and say that there is no good or bad poetry, but the final reason for poetry can't involve it being good or bad. In the dreamed community, everyone is a poet, and everyone reads their neighhbors. Because they are there.

The following is a draft, a latest attempt. Please feel free to criticize, comment, suggest, scorn, or what have you.

Larval Poets Manifesto

They keep turning up as larvae
Immature forms of insects
Fuzzy caterpillars, weevils in cotton bolls, maggots perhaps
Those are poets, poems
Feeding wherever they can
Hoping for a metamorphosis
Not knowing what they're going to be

We eat paper and silence
Leave hollowed-out paths
Jagged edges of leaves re-scalloped
By munching. The faint crunch, crunch
Can be heard at night if you listen
Heard all over Northampton

What is good for a larva? All around
The classics sit, poets have been
Eating words for centuries
Will one of us write classics?
Silly to put the question
As if one glowing maggot,
Imbued with holy light
Could creep into the ear of the muse
And hear there the distant rush
Of the passing blood

It doesn't matter
We write for each other
We fix each other's houses
If a slight whisper penetrates the cotton
Or a twig trembles from a neighboring leaf
Thousands won't hear, but perhaps dozens
Will lift their heads, mandibles in the air
And recognize

Our village Florence was named by a water cure doctor
New England to become Italy
The boiling water that makes silk
Out of a mess of larvae and mulberry leaves

But we can't be boiled down
Not like the langpo people said
Maybe I saw it on Silliman's blog
You can't like all kinds of poetry
You can't be loyal to everything
You need a theory
Grow a hard shell, ants defend the nest

A larva can't be hard
We all try to get better
Going in all directions blindly
Trying to moult to our next instar
We amble along our twig a little further
There isn't one direction we can go
Poems don't need your loyalty
Styles don't, movements
Only poets need loyalty

And that is what it means to be a larval poet
To hear the distant crunch of a neighbor
And wonder what they will be
And listen
Gnawing, hungry
And someday find a discarded shell
Your, theirs, it doesn't matter
And think, there was a poet


  1. Rich,

    Thank you for sharing the link to your Blog at the meeting tonight. I hope your daughter is feeling better, and getting the care she needs, as I type this comment.

    I enjoy your Larva poem, and think it fits nicely with the theme of going local... and what better place to do it than in the Happy Valley?

    I didn't share the link to my webpage at the meeting tonight, but am leaving it here with this post. Feel free to check it out!

    Looking forward to seeing you more around the poetry community.

    With Warmth,


  2. Thanks, em. She's probably fine -- not feeling great, but it doesn't seem to be appendicitis.

  3. Rich, You've done a wonderful job with your blog. And I am so impressed with the Western New England Poetry Collection. Thank you for your diligent work and thanks for including a link. (I've added it and your blog as links from my blog.) The poem is beautiful (well maybe beautiful isn't the right word), it's emotive and thought-provoking. (And, so aptly titled!)