Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poet, Rate Thyself: Respect, Prestige, Finances

Stan Apps asked the following question on his blog the other day:

"A reputation economy--no $$$, only R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Is it a utopia? (And if it is a utopia for some, does that automatically make it a dystopia for others?"

And here was my answer:

"I think many poets are familiar with a respect economy, which of course shades very quickly into a prestige/reputation economy, and is therefore also related to a financial economy. Although none of these three economies is the same, they're pretty closely linked.

I think poets should rate themselves on a scale of one to ten how they think they stand in these economies.

I'm giving myself:

Respect 7
Prestige/Reputation 5
Financial 4

Of course, it's easiest to rate oneself on the financial economy, second easiest to rate prestige/reputation, and hardest to rate respect.

Which suggests therefore that a pure respect economy, which doesn't exist of course, could nonetheless not be a utopia for one simple reason: any time something important depends on what other people think of you (which is, of course, most of the time), there's no end to trouble."


So, poet or whatever you are or do, here's your chance to rate yourself on the scales of respect, prestige, and finances.

And of course it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on these (slightly tongue in cheek but not entirely) ideas.


Anonymous said...

I'll give myself a 7, too, for respect, a 1 on prestige, and a 5 on finance. But, I mean, consider the possible rankings for poets like "Bony Toadland" or "Fairy Goofull": They might receive scores like 9.5 on (a certain kind of) respect, 8.5 on a (certain kind of) prestige, and they do better than us all on finances ---- yet, of course, they SUCK. And by sucking, I mean that, in the case of Fairy Goofull, for example, she really explores the Fear of the Submerged Soviet Sailor, but what of the Fear of the Submarine, which *swallowed* the Fear of the Soviet Sailor? Nobody thinks of the submarine, man, nobody. ----------B.A.

Johannes said...

Poetry is already run on a respect economy. Also known as a heap of mediocrity economy. Or I have lots of pals economy. Or kiss me kiss me kiss me.

I give myself one hundred in all categories. Especially the one involving dehydration.


mark wallace said...

But Johannes, there are big differences between the respect and prestige economies. Both kiss kiss kiss but they kiss kiss kiss differently. The respect economy kisses you because it likes you and your work, whoever you and your work happen to be in the mind of the respect that's kissing you, and whatever you've done (for better or worse) to gain that respect. The prestige economy kisses your institutional position or public reputation.

I think, if one were to generalize, which one can't, quite, it's pretty clear that poetry is not run on a respect economy. I think it tends to value prestige over the financial, while failing to acknowledge the degree to which the financial is socially embedded in prestige. But whatever the connection there, respect is still a distant third.

Also, re mediocrity, what's fascinating is the degree to which it's easier to criticize mediocrity than to recognize it in oneself. "Physician, heal thyself" is I think the best kind of response to that problem. Lead by example, not accusation. Not that accusation doesn't have its pleasures.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Mark, this post is funny.

I am, perhaps naively, continually suprised at how many kiss kiss opportunities I receive from people I can't possibly help, let alone kiss. I have to fend off kisses and requests for kisses from kiss me kiss me peoples (as do others, I know). Today, I'm a 7-4-3, but sometimes I'm an 8-5-3. When I'm at my most confident, I think, "I am awesome. No one gives a crap about what I write!" The problem is that one day I might actually have whatever power someone thinks I might have. And what will I do then? I don't really believe that. But still, the prospect disturbs and intrigues me.

I wish tomorrow weren't Monday.

Johannes said...

I don't feel like I exactly "respect" people whose poetry I like. Maybe that word is just so fuddy-duddy.

Sometimes I may want to stab myself in the chest with a pair of scissors. Does that count?

OK. I give myself 14 among junkies and 32.5 among orphans and 17.2 among disco-dancers. 2.5 at the Academy of American Poetry Organization.

mark wallace said...

Thanks for these great further responses.

Lorraine, one thing your comment suggests is that our measure on the respect/prestige/financial economies is always in flux. You've got to go out there and earn it again, every day. You've got to hock your watch. Even a 10-10-10 has to watch its back. The competition is fierce.

Johannes, you seem to want a Overwhelmed By Your Intensity and Originality Economy. And in fact I think one of those already exists, although frankly it's a smaller subset of the already existing Respect Economy. Overwhelmed By Your Intensity And Originality Economies usually thrive best in local environments and have a tendency to get co-opted, especially when broadened into Economies Of The Masses Whose Tastes Are Easily Corrupted.

Johannes said...

I get really easily corrupted.

Gary said...

I would give myself:

Respect 4
Prestige/Reputation 8 or 9, if this includes "notoriety"
Financial 4

I'm not sure if Financial means "through poetry," but that is what the number I've put in reflects. It would be lower if I didn't publish (and sell) "poetry" comics, maybe a 1 or 2.

Rauan Klassnik said...

I'll give myself

a drink
a pat on the back
a few minutes in the bathroom

that makes me a poet, right?