I’m trying to sort out what’s happening on the main page. It’s clearly related to what I wrote earlier about iconicity and the stock photo, as they’re poems somehow spawned by or at least illustrated by the photos above them. I think any relevance that point had is gone by now, though, and the stock-ness of the photos is more a convenience than anything, especially when the poem or idea for the poem comes first, which I think has become the case more frequently as the pairing of poems with images has advanced. Convenience is still up for interpretation, I suppose. I would prefer not to.
I am inclined to consider the status of poets instead. Unless they are attached to universities or capable of serial successes in grant writing, poets cannot support themselves as such; it is not heard of, although I suppose one could stretch “poet” to certain types of ad writing and find people who live well enough. A person may _also be_ a poet. A person may _also be_ a very successful poet who prefers the thing also done to be the only thing described with an “also,” but such a preference is immaterial.
The sad truth is that people do not live off the sales of poetry like some do off the sales of prose fiction and nonfiction because poetry does not sell as those other forms sell. Cooper knows this. Successful publishing poets know this, because being a successful publishing poet means something different from being, say, a successful publishing novelist. The standards for success differ because the markets differ–radically–such that big success in one market (novels) is likely to mean financial independence, whereas big success in the other (poetry) isn’t likely to mean much of anything financially… only the biggest of successes have much of a financial impact in poetry. Except, of course, when the poet has the “and alsos” of university positions, genius/creativity grants, etc. that big success in poetry can bring, but they usually involve other responsibilities and/or are short-term.
Cooper has a number of poetry projects in the pipe, and they’re not bad… some of it is really decent, I think. In the abstract, pursuing such projects, like pursuing the poetry/image combos on the main page, seems like a fine idea, but I can’t stop asking, in the concrete:
Why pursue poetry projects at all? Why not just keep pounding away at the novels?
Cooper would say something artsy about writing what he can when he can, but poetry’s perversity, its inherent anti-sociality and defiance of capitalistic expectations, may have something to do with his attraction to it. I can hear him denying that already, but the concept makes sense, doesn’t it? He is impishly perverse.