I haven't thought much about the question of competition in a while, because I am, after all, living in San Francisco where I have adopted a general policy of laissez-faire about everything; but today at lunch as it happen my friend the video artist Kota Ezawa told me, very fiercely, that "art is a battle of ideas," and something about the way he was so insistent on this made me think more about how I really feel. So funny to come home then and find your call. Kota is all like, you should never make a dishonest work of art, you should not make things to sell, otherwise the market has won. In poetry I do think that competition is healthy and that nothing disgusts me more than a group of poets who all love each other's work. The only thing that means is that the mediocre has triumphed. Now that I write these things down, it sounds as though I were implicating you Philly poets by saying this on your forum. I didn't mean to do so but, now that I think of it, what's up with that? Are all of you these great master poets, or is there competition and hierarchy between you? That's the way it is here and, hey, we're in California where rank matters less than, well, a good brioche.
I didn't go to a Creative Writing program. Are they really hotbeds of competition? Or is it that, there are only so few first book awards and there must be some people who never win one? I don't know.
Regarding Whitman, maybe you could see these reviews he wrote of his own work as part of a general line of hoaxes and spoofs that have energized American culture since its inception? Oh, I don't know, you should ask Kent Johnson about this.
In the meantime may I ask the poets of Philadelphia to look out for our young friend Julia Bloch, an interesting writer who is going to be starting the PhD program at Penn this month? I told her that you would watch out for her and introduce her to people with whom she'd feel at home. Thank you, Conrad. xxx Kevin K.