the large press movement

Bernstein tends to reserve his sharpest criticism for those poets, poetics, and poetry institutions that, he argues, deliberately promote the blandest poetry to discredit the very idea of poetry. In other words, the Academy of American Poetry, National Poetry Week, and the Poet Laureate promote certain poetry in opposition to, rather than in response to, public demand. Thus the poetry he considers vital is not just underrepresented, not just intentionally suppressed, but is better for the public than the poems these institutions offer.

There is a surprising passage in "Warning - Poetry Area" in which he demonstrates that, because The New Yorker, along with Random House, loses money, their decisions about what to publish must be motivated by ideology rather than a response to the public demand. This is different from the money lost by a "high-end" alternative press such as Sun & Moon (publisher of four of Bernstein's books, and two of Marinetti's), who, according to Bernstein's calculations, lose $160 on every successful title, because "alternative presses can never afford to lose as much as these corporations."

On the idea that major publishers deliberately fail to publish the poetry Bernstein considers to have "enormous significance to the public," Bernstein remains firmly paranoid:

As it is, the poetry publishing and reviewing practices of these major media institutions do a disservice to new poetry by their sins of commission as much as omission - that is, pretending to cover what they actually cover up; as if you could bury poetry alive. In consistently acknowledging only the blandest of contemporary verse practices, these institutions provide the perfect alibi for their evasion of poetry; for if what is published and reviewed by these institutions is the best that poetry has to offer, then, indeed, there would be little reason to attend to poetry... ("Provisional Institutions: Alternative Presses and Poetic Innovation")
Not only, then, are those who publish mainstream poetry out to destroy poetry and its relation to the public, they are "fostering a cultural climate in which genuinely profitable products may thrive." Too much time spent reading innovative poetry is bad for the economy. Poetry is not disposable.

<      >