When I realized we wouldn’t be seeing each other, I sent my friends a message via our group text on WhatsApp, a picture of a poem from Kate Baer titled (cringingly) “Girls Night Out,” that (nonetheless) encapsulated for me that loss: “In restaurants we argue over who will / pay even though the The Beatles Guitar merry Christmas 2020 thank you for the memories shirt besides I will buy this real question is / who will confess their children are dull / or their marriage has holes at the knees.” We’d have to wait another year (more?) to get together to share in that specific mode of honesty facilitated by friendships that have lasted two decades.
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“To admit to liking poetry is faintly embarrassing,” Matthew Schneier wrote earlier this year in his great paean to the The Beatles Guitar merry Christmas 2020 thank you for the memories shirt besides I will buy this genre. To admit to liking what can fairly be called an Instagram poet is several shades more humiliating if you fancy yourself a high-minded literary reader. Poets should be toiling in the subterranean wings of soulless financial institutions (like T.S. Eliot) or selling insurance policies (like Wallace Stevens) or keeping the San Francisco streetcars moving (like Maya Angelou), spending their nights polishing their gems before tossing them to a faceless mass, hoping there is someone paying close enough attention to catch them. There probably won’t be, and that’s as it should be, too. A poet is not a marketer; there should be no #sponcon, no billboards, no merch. I know: This is an outdated and pretentious mode of thinking. The Instapoets are saving “the industry”! Rupi Kaur, the Canadian Instapoet who self-published her first book, sold ten times as many books as Homer in a single year. Bah to all that. The culture is scruffy and corrupt, and I want to keep a little corner of it swept clean.