San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Why a Guild?

Nowadays there seem to be a lot of readers of poetry, and a whole lot of writers of poetry, but very few members of poetry guilds, and of course not too many guilds out there for the joining should anyone care to. So the SDPG got together for that reason, to join forces and assets, to share resources and ideas--if not to monopolize poetry like the Medieval craft guilds did with baked goods and masonry and shoes, etc., but rather to provide the 'rights and privileges' that go along with working toward common goals of poetry production and distribution.

Why a guild and not a collective or council or group? Good question. There's something in the basic idea of guild association that seems necessary for poetry today, particularly in a region such as this one (San Diego and its surrounding villages) where it's too easy to get lost in the slowly smothering density of southern Californian commerce and culture. Here, there are dozens of poetry workers scattered around the county (as well as on the other side of the fence) all doing excellent work who otherwise have little chance to share their wares, talents, and technologies with a wider multi-politan audience. We associate, then, in order to consolidate what we know for the sake of a better life and better poetic work.

The guild convenes not to share experiences and their related expressions, nor to sponsor the perpetual marketing of individuals and their activities, but rather to conspire toward broad-based poetry work that exceeds that which we could do as a collection of writers, let alone by ourselves working toward our own ends. In a sense, the guild protects us from the scourge of exploitation that befalls so many engaged in this business. This exploitation comes in many forms--from the absorptive forces of local organized performance and its associated celebrity cults, to the dominating and exclusionary practices of institutional (academic) reading series. The SDPG does not position itself in opposition to these (and other) forces, although much could be gained perhaps in just such opposition. Rather, the guild explores new and existing channels for poetry work that feeds a glocal poetry economy, seeking always to forge connections across divides of territory, language, and prevailing aesthetic.

We profit by the proactive gathering of minds and materials, fostering collaborative interchange and the free exchange of trade secrets. That's really it, then, and in the spirit of the guilds of yore and some out there today: mutual protection and aid, sponsorship (fiscal where necessary and possible), technical assistance, educational resources, networking, and collective action. And all centering on the idea that poetry is work and not a luxury and should be recognized, and compensated, as such--if not in cash, then at least in the skilled reciprocity of a few committed members.

Poetry needs more guilds--and fewer scenes, discussion lists, reading series, cafes, and writing departments. That's pretty much how I see it, for now.


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