This started as a note on my phone, one that follows a list of odds and ends that people have suggested I look up and track down. The Tree of Codes, The Epic of Manas and Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger are literary examples of tips that after four months I have still not followed up on. This speaks both to daily life as a writing student in New York and to the work being produced- texts and days start out, or at one point in the ‘process’ become a soup of floating signifiers whose resonance has yet to be clarified.

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Poetry, as Americans have come to know and give out prizes for, originates mostly in the aristocratic European traditions: the early modern British civil servant-versifier and German philosopher-poets the Medieval French troubadours, the Renaissance court poets of the Kingdom of Spain and of the city states of Italy.

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Comparatively weaker strains of influence from travelling bards, street singers, folk & gypsy song can be evidenced in postwar American verse; performance & slam poetry (rap also) can be counted among their inheritors, though I concede this connection begs the question, which is to yet say nothing of whether or not American practitioners would acknowledge this influence.

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Regardless, my point in tracing this the dominant sector of US poetry to unequivocally privileged positions is to bring to the fore the status and qualities of everyday living that are a prerequisite for the production of writing which would be considered by critics as poetry in conversation with, for example, Dante, Milton and the anonymous authors of Canto de Mio Cid, The Seafarer, and other texts requiring, principally, access to consistent and substantial quantities of free time, cultural capital, and the practical means to support oneself during the process of composition (not to mention freedom from the commitments of raising children and looking after elderly family members).

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While admirable and distinctively ‘founding fathers’ type American efforts to democratize the production of art through philanthropy-driven library construction, the direct constraints (or lack thereof) that industrial capital puts on the efforts of artists survives from Walt Whitman, who was fired from his desk job for working on Leaves of Grass during office hours, to Taylor Swift, whose frictionless rise to fame as a lyricist at age 20 beginning with regional poetry competitions, was endorsed from the beginning by her father, a Merrill Lynch executive.

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This is not to pour scorn on the aspirational, or to discredit funding bodies in their efforts to champion writing that would not otherwise survive without financial support. (cf. Ed Hirsch whose claim that ‘the system cannot support so many poets,’ as are created by MFA programs nation- (and world) wide.) It is instead to prove that the styles, output and methodology of contemporary Anglophone poets cannot realistically be expected to reflect those of the aristocratic ancestors without a compromise of some sort, unless they somehow equal them in status. Thus, when the poems in this pamphlet speak with confused, jumbled or rough-edged voice, it is because there has not been enough time and resources applied to them.

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Nonetheless, that they evidence such tensions and frustrations is not I hope the only outcome of reading it. Moreover perhaps they can be seen as a procession from the political to the observational to the personal, a curation that seems appropriately enough to cover the main bases that I am interested in.

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