Monday, March 9, 2009

Do poets need patrons?

Last week I flipped through a recent poetry collection that had won an award but was probably more notable for slimness even as slim poetry volumes go - it was barely more than a chapbook. (The book will remain unidentified for a variety of reasons.) The actual work was the kind of neither-here-nor-there quasi-prose with a bit of trendy politics that so many people like but what most struck me was something in the acknowledgments.

The author thanked a group for grant money that allowed him/her to finish the poems. What? This person has a well-paid job without huge time demands and needed extra money for this? It's not the Cantos or A or Finnegans Wake. I thought of Williams writing between patients or Stevens after a day at the insurance office but apparently there's some sense of entitlement now that poetry is mostly funded by grants and colleges. I wonder how much better off our culture would be if these sources were cut off?