Saturday, September 19, 2009

give sanity a chance, sustainable aesthetics, sustainable civilizations

Imagine that in the future there will be a revolution of sustainable industries that will be as radical as the industrial revolution; this cannot happen without a radical shift in aesthetics also happening.

Imagine that success will no longer be defined by money and fame in the typical ways. Acquiring vast wealth just for its own sake etc. will be seen as shallow and vain in a very drastic way. If Bill Gates is a "success," so was King Richard III a "success."

Imagine that below-the-radar industries like literary small presses may have something valuable to tell the "real" industries about value and work and the true meanings of success.

Imagine that publishing a classic-to-be book that gets read by a few hundred readers in its first year is a greater success than publishing a trashy celebrity memoir that has 400,000 readers in its first three months. Imagine that this could be more rewarding for the publisher, the author, the editor and the readers. Imagine that the several hundred readers become several million readers three decades later of a new classic. Imagine that the trashy memoir readers can't remember what they read or why they read it a season later, and that book never gets reprinted.

Imagine that these models of value and of success get implemented in General Motors. Imagine a sustainable car industry where the goal is to make a car that will last 25 years, reliably, with replaceable modules for the engine and/or energy cells etc. so that a car body could be designed to last multiple generations because there really is no reason great enough to keep destroying the environment when it isn't really necessary. If a horse-drawn buggy could last several decades, why not a car?

Imagine computers designed not to be the fastest, driving the hunger for speed and power, but to be the most reliable, flexible and durable so that they could last usefully for ten to twenty years. Imagine manufacturing with the goal of reinstalling key components every five years if needed just because it is better to reduce waste in a world with limited resources. Imagine software designed to have low cost, greater user friendliness, and universal support. Imagine open source communities providing the best and most widely used free applications for almost everything except for very specialized areas of software.

Imagine that the main job of publishers, editors and writers will not be the promotion of products or sales. The main job will be the one that started us all—to write, to create, to publish inspiring and great works that change everything we know and imagine is possible.

Imagine that cynicism and careerism will one day appear futile and stupid wastes of the most valuable resources of all.

Imagine that all of the empty vacuous books and poems and novels that are infamous today will be forgotten just like all of the empty vacuous bestsellers of the past. Imagine that there won't be as many reasons for hungry minds and spirits to put themselves through that sort of work anymore.

Imagine that people in more sane jobs won't need as many entertainments that function like narcotics to erase the toxic memories of their jobs.

Imagine that sustainable farming, creating new top soil for future generations, will be valued and rewarded more than farming techniques that burn through inches of topsoil in a few years even though we know it takes the earth by itself 50,000 years to create one inch of top soil.

Imagine an economic system that rewards and values responsibility to the future of our own civilization. As if our children and their children truly mattered to us.

I don't think any of this is utopian thinking. I think that we are so profoundly dystopian in our outlook as a civilization that we are starting to believe we could be stupid enough to self-destruct not with catastrophic wars but with even more devastating failures to act with wisdom and intelligence to a global ecological crisis.

All I am saying is let's give sanity a chance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Link to the reprinted “For Etheridge Knight (1931—March 10, 1991)

The very fine editors at Fox Chase Review just reprinted “For Etheridge Knight (1931—March 10, 1991),” which is the most reprinted and anthologized poem I ever wrote, I think.

It’s an elegy for a great poet and an old friend, but it ends on a very high note.

The direct link is:

I almost never read this elegy for audiences because it is hard to get through the feelings of loss. But it is probably one of the things that sticks with people better than almost anything else I ever wrote.

Whenever I feel a need for inspiration, there are a few poets I return to (whether I want to or not). Etheridge is one of those poets.

Galway Kinnell memorialized his friendship with Etheridge in a beautiful poem, calling him the "brother of my heart." Etheridge was so much older than me that I could not feel like that in the same way that a peer could. But it was really something else to hear him read. He was the real, distinctive thing.