In Merriam Webster it’s the seventh meaning. But it’s everywhere.
I refer to the definition of ‘community’ g : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academic community>.
Frequently it’s the gay community. Or the deaf community. I am pleased to number myself a member of the left handed community. Naturally I feature in the female community, though this worries me somewhat, since I had thought this use of ‘community’ was inclined to define itself by exception, like the German Shepherd Dog community or the beard community.
It’s an odd word, ‘community’. Over-used and yet clinging desperately to its connotations of closeness, humanity and support.
Which brings me to last Friday and the ripples caused by Salt’s decision to cease (though not quite yet) publishing single author poetry collections. From The Guardian online we learn that this “hit online poetry community hard” (they probably meant the online poetry community).
I must be a member of the online poetry community, I guess. I interact a lot online and most of my interaction is about poetry. So I ought to be ‘hit hard’, though not half as hard as the Salt dispossessed poets community, one of which (Robert Peake) says as much in the Huffington Post.
But I’m also a member of the poetry publishing community – not that I would normally, as a junior member, have put it that way. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel hit hard at all. Just particularly interested, especially in some of the thought-provoking comment the news has generated.
There’s Charles Boyle, for example, at sonofabook, with some context; Clare Pollard on ‘The Health of Poetry’; Matthew Stewart on Salt’s exit; Christie Williamson on Salt’s “ability to spark debate and comment”; Anthony Wilson on disappearing poets; and the remarkable Jon Stone on, among other aspects, poetry’s half-life.
I feel concern for the human beings involved in Salt’s decision, of course, concern for both publishers and publishees. But most of all I’m interested in the context. Things change all the time, most of them faster than ever before.
Poetry – whatever it may be – will survive. It doesn’t need business models. It thrives on opposition. It doesn’t need to be useful or justified. It’s a parasite. It will live off whatever opportunities present themselves, mercilessly and with ingenuity. And the individual parasite (among whose community I number myself) is important only to herself. As Stevie Smith said, “The poet is not an important fellow. There will always be another poet.”