Orientating Mr. Blank
by Tom Disch
Issue no. 91 (Spring 1984)

This will be your office, Mr. Blank,
While you remain attached to the Poetry
Division of the Department of Mediocrity.
Prose is down the hall, but we all work together—
Except for the two snobs upstairs in Innovation,
Who pretty much stick to themselves.

Now as to categories: Gays are by themselves.
In this drawer. Women who fill in their name blank
With “Ms.” go in the Minority file (Drubb’s innovation).
Don’t file all the drug abusers under Nature Poetry.
Some are Deep Image; others get lumped, together
With younger academics, into regions. Mediocrity

Is not randomly distributed. True mediocrity‚
Like genius, aggregates into nodes. By themselves
A dozen mediocrities amount to nothing, but put them together
And you have a department. \you laugh, Mr. Blank,
But I am always serious when I speak of poetry.
What’s New Under the Sun? as Mailer wrote, and innovation

Isn’t the answer! The only genuine innovation
In the arts has been the belated recognition accorded mediocrity.
By forming poets into Schools and Offices of Poetry,
By helping them most generously to help themselves.
By encouraging their application to all forms of application blank.
They’re made to learn that only by colluding together

Can poets obtain the object of money. Together-
Ness! “One Tribe, One Wall”—that was the first innovation
Of burghers in their boroughs, and now, Mr. Blank,
It is the last. Artists now see in their united mediocrity
A means toward the Golden Mean, and in themselves
A collective force for forming—and re-forming poetry

Into a once-more-useful social institution. Poetry
Is no longer the mere serial stringing-together
Of apergus into prosodic masses, those masses themselves
To be collected in a book—even such a book as The Innovation
Sheaves (on which, by the by, I wrote my dissertation, “Mediocrity
In the work of Ezra Pound”)! Well, Mr. Blank,

I hope that you and Mrs. Blank can come to our Poetry
Day Raffle. If not. Mediocrity often has a little get-together.
Usually without that pair from Innovation. They stick to themselves.