my bard can beat up your bard

Poetry is competitive well out of proportion to any material rewards it offers, and new schools frequently define themselves in opposition to old schools. Notice Bernstein's use of the italicized "newer" in the passage from A Poetics cited earlier, which emphasis indicates that the poets he mentioned were two levels newer than those poets who, at the time, were already only "new." What comes after post-, when you're living toward the post-after? Charles Bernstein is in the awkward position of being established, and can now enjoy the resentment both of more established poets working in more traditional forms, and of young poets who see him as a monolith.

After all, "Language Poetry" was originally a term used by those who did not write it, just as "politically correct" is a term reserved for those whose politics you disagree with. "Politically correct" is not a political platform, it is a politics that exists only in other people's dismissal of it. Similarly, "Language Poetry" is neither genre nor movement, and the name given to the poetry for which Bernstein publicly stands came about as an insult, and is still used as one, sometimes, as on the POETICS list, even reduced to the smug and diminutive "langpo."

In the poetry community, there are competing legitimacies, and, as Johnson points out, Charles Bernstein is caught in their intersections. Emerging from a writing movement that configured itself in opposition to the academy, he is now a professor, and, for all I know, in the canon as well. Occupying a position of mild academic prestige gives one a certain legitimacy, but too much canonization is not good for you if your rhetoric is that of freedom, liberation, and play.

Of course you're right, I tell the few friends I have left, now that I am poet-professor at the University of Buffalo, I have retreated to an Ivory Tower, removed from the daily contact I used to have, as a poet-office worker in downtown Manhattan, with the broad masses of the American people ... the ones that I used to read at downtown art openings and poetry readings. ("Revenge of the Poet-Critic")

I am convinced by neither Kostelanetz nor Johnson that Charles Bernstein is irresponsibly eager to elide certain poets from discourse, but it is clear that such behavior can and does exist. Does Bernstein have a responsibility to keep the discourse open, lively, inclusive and fun? Or, to phrase the question my way: as you gain power (measured in poetry by the size of one’s audience), does the function of struggle - or editing - transform from resistance to oppression? Were police who jailed and injured nonviolent protesters last year in Seattle, this year in Washington D.C. and in Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love), and right now in L.A., defending the public or attacking them?

There is obviously more than one answer to this either-or question.

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