Dr Bombay sent me a link to his friend Charlie’s blog, where Charlie talks a bunch about poetry, and in this particular entry, about whether we can talk about poets as brand names.
Charlie’s final point is that brands are stagnating for the artist. Brands must stay the same to be recognizable, this is true, but it seems to me that an artist can still change while their brand stays (basically) the same. Think of U2. Their brand (public image) has definitely changed over the years, but very slowly, and not nearly as often as their music (for better or worse). There are examples of successful brand revolutions too. Think of Christina Aguilera, who went from being branded a twelve year old to being branded a super-slut virtually over night. Changing your image isn’t impossible, just very difficult.
Having worked in a large marketing company for a few years, I heard the term “brand” thrown around all the time… but it was never used to refer to what the actual product was… it was always used to refer to the public image of said product.
I would argue that all artists are branded whether they know it or not. Whether they go through the process of branding themselves is the real question. To market yourself as an artist, you have to have an image. All branding does is try to keep some semblance of control over that image.
This is true of poets too, although many of them (us) choose to eschew the process entirely, and either allow our publishers to make all the marketing (branding) decisions, or attempt to allow our words to speak for itself. Sure, some of the biggest name poets probably have some kind of brand, but I’ll bet none of them have logos. (I just spent far too long looking for this quiz that I saw online a few months back where you had to match up popular artists and sports stars with their respective logos. It was really a cool quiz, if you remember where it’s at, send me the link, please.)
The phenomenon of Charlie’s blog for me is not that it’s largely about poetry and writing (which I love,) but that it’s so amazingly thoughtful and insightful. Then linking from his blog to Victoria Chen’s, it was like finding a wormhole into this other world where people actually care about poetry the majority of the time.
Strangely enough, however, that world is probably as repulsive to me as it is attractive. I think if poetry were more popular than it is, I would be more hesitant to write it. Plus, there is something so sticky about academic studies of poetry. Some part of me just thinks poems are.
I get upset when people talk about this movement or that movement in poetry. The whole idea of having a movement in poetry for me requires an artistic revolution where you write a manifesto and all your friends get together and think about similar ideas. It seems to me that calling yourself this type of poet or that type of poet is such a big fad. Isn’t that era over already? Nobody actually writes manifestos anymore, but they all talk about different types of poetry as if every poem fit neatly into one or two categories and that was it.
I’d much rather hear discussion about a poem itself than about the category it may or may not fit into.
Man, now I’m just whining.