Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Paul Krugman Wants to Know What Happened

by lizard

I want to thank Mark Anderlik for providing a bit of perspective to counter the unfair pessimism that concluded my last post. Here’s the comment:

As someone who saw up close the Occupy Missoula movement I still come back to where social movements have been successful in the past – organizing. Not sexy, not easy, not quick. Other things are important too, but as our history has shown time and again that without organizing, change will not be sustained. The branches of the Occupy movement still active (including Missoula) have dug in to organize around specific issues that speak to larger problems. For example a group has been organizing in Missoula around foreclosures, another around the Citizen’s United decision. And now several groups facilitated by the Montana Organizing Project is organizing to create a partnership bank for Montana that has the potential to undermine the stranglehold the “too-big-to-fail” banks have on our economy. Hard work, few headlines, building the foundation for change. The proven way.

The headlines OWS generated can be seen (cynically) as mere commodities peddled by alleged originators, like Micah White, who is now moving on to the next product. Knowing that has some value, I think, but to say everyone who identified with OWS got conned is not helpful, and not accurate. I take JC’s point on this one:

As to Occupy being conned, I really don’t think so. Doesn’t really matter who, why or how a revolution gets kicked off. Once it is underway, it is out of control — it becomes an organic, amorphous mass. Which actually terrified many people — the reformers.

One of my favorite memes that emerged from the amorphous mass of OWS was the People’s Library, because apparently the physical presence of books is something that needs to be celebrated and protected against this evil reasoning: Is there any reason to own paper books beside showing off? Not really.

From that blasphemy I’d like to awkwardly jump to Paul Krugman’s piece on Poetry and Blogging. Seriously. Here’s how he does it:

A non-economics, non-policy post; I just want to give a shoutout to a book I’m reading, and really enjoying: Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years. I’ve been a big fan of Standage’s ever since his book The Victorian Internet, about the rise of the telegraph, which shed a lot of light on network technologies while also being great fun. Now he’s done it again.

Standage’s argument is that the essential aspects of social media — exchange of information that runs horizontally, among people who are affiliated in some way, rather than top-down from centralized sources — have been pervasive through history, with the industrial age’s news media only a temporary episode of disruption. As he shows, Cicero didn’t get his news from Rome Today or Rupertus Murdochus — he got it through constant exchanges of letters with people he knew, letters that were often both passed on to multiple readers and copied, much like tweets being retweeted.

Even more interesting is his discussion of the Tudor court, where a lot of the communication among insiders took place through the exchange of … poetry, which allowed people both to discuss sensitive topics elliptically and to demonstrate their cleverness. You could even build a career through poetry, not by selling it, but by using your poems to build a reputation, which could translate into royal favor and high office — sort of the way some people use their blogs to build influence that eventually leads to paying gigs of one kind or another. The tale of John Harington — of the famous “treason never prospers” line — is fascinating.

Incidentally, when and why did we stop reading poetry? Educated people used to read it all the time, or at least pretend to; that’s no longer the case. Frankly, I don’t read poetry except on very rare occasions. What happened?

That’s a good question, Paul. I’m working on it.


  1. d.g.

    *Warning: this post will contain the narcissistic-spectrum use of the word “I”). I have worked 15 months–mostly alone—to bring the issue of pesticide use and abuse in Missoula parks and playgrounds to a public forum. Tirelessly. Fruitlessly (irony intended.) Only in the last 30 days have my repeated 3-minute presentations (with photos and documentation) at Missoula Council Chambers achieved the transfer of this discussion to both the Health and Safety sub committee and the Parks and Conservation sub committee. Occupy Missoula failed to occupy the microphone at the most potent forum in this city. Protest Monsanto brought out all the 20-something we-wish-we-were-at-Woodstock anti-GMO crowd. Labeled “agitator” by the Missoulian , (lol-literally) it is still a bur under the saddle blanket and a galling taste of bile in the upper esophagus that our Rick-Bass-obsessed “Independent” believes it will stop climate-cruel Canada from doing whateverthehellitwants and posts like 420 to once again delve into the metaphysics of efficacy.

    • I think you’d be able to get your point across more effectively with smaller block paragraphs.

      Don’t be afraid to put just a single sentence spaced off by itself – readers like white space a lot.

      I can’t help but feel you have something to say, but perhaps it’s just that your presentation is lacking. I’m of the opinion that many people just pass right over large blocks of text.

  1. 1 152 Poetry Posts to Celebrate April, National Poetry Month | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Paul Krugman Wants to Know What Happened […]




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