A NY Times story by Timothy Williams on the poet August Kleinzahler (thanks for the link, Bonnie!) sent me to Kleinzahler’s scathing, unfair, and thoroughly enjoyable assault on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac (which I praised here, though I agree he certainly reads a lot of bad poems), which contains a magnificent quote from one of my favorite poets, Basil Bunting:
Poetry is no use whatever. The whole notion of usefulness is irrelevant to what are called the fine arts, as it is to many other things, perhaps to most of the things that really matter. We who call ourselves “The West,” now that we’ve stopped calling ourselves Christians, are so imbued with the zeal for usefulness that was left us by Jeremy Bentham that we find it difficult to escape from utilitarianism into a real world.
“Transform your life with poetry”
the card said, and briefly I fussed
that this overestimated the effect
until I remembered how it had thrust
several old friends,
plus near and dear,
into distress and penury,
how even I, without the dust
of its magic, might have achieved
peace of mind, even success,
so maybe the advice is just,
not to be ignored, a sort of timely
Health Warning from the Ministry
at the Scottish Book Trust.