Boxing is better than poetry. To begin with, both are very similar. Many phenomena are presented in the same proportions: the individual authorial style, the interaction of subjects, the creation of a certain system in order to violate it later, and having violated it, to stun.
The goal of poetry is to cause shock, lead to a catharsis. What could shock more than a knockout though? Both poetry and boxing combine great art but serve to amuse the crowd.
Both have a tendency towards greater freedom or independence from the existing norm on the established norm. Poetry and boxing have a dimension for self-development and contain a set for interaction in a dual system, a poet-reader or a fighter-fighter.
Alas, sharing a love for boxing with other people is much easier than sharing with them love for poetry. It is quite natural to gather two dozen boxers in one room. Doing so with poets would be insane.
Amazingly, poetry strives to build pyramidal hierarchies just as much as boxing, but without clear criteria for this: it fails at the very first attempts, which are endless, nervous and painful.
The aspiration to hierarchies in boxing, as in all kinds of sport, leads to the improvement of each and every person who is involved. Eventually, the same would be reached by an improvement of poetic language. But when it comes to the emotions a person will experience in the process of work, the author is unclear about their own place in poetry, and the reader feels uncertain of the adequacy of their own perception. The current state of affairs is a good illustration.
As mentioned already, both things exist in a one-dimensional space with a goal to a two-dimensional one.
When a boxer trains before a match or when a person works on a poem with a goal to be read, both of them work towards a two-dimensional expanse with a partner, an opponent or a reader.
But in boxing weakness and mistakes are always self-evident.
If we bring Kafka with his uncertainty in the value of his own creation into the position of a boxer, then instead of his letters, we'd receive several bodies.
If we bring to the boxing ring the feelings of the young Nabokov, whose first collection of poems failed, at the end he would have a broken nose and the resolve to become better, instead of offense and doubts in the worth of what he had done with great passion and love. Poetry loses all points of being on a naive and intermediate level. We can easily see this in the relations of everyone who has raised themselves (or thinks they have raised themselves) above these levels.
I saw the review of the main editor of a poetry journal on what were, by and large, obviously amateurish, pretentious, and weak poems. I was embarrassed: I couldn't imagine a boxing coach who would say to a newbie that boxing isn't for him and he should do something else.
Unfortunately, people who love boxing care much more often about getting others to love it, than those who love poetry. Few people reach a high level, but in the case of boxing, each individual makes a contribution. Meanwhile, the sanctuary of poetry is defended by a battalion of watchmen: all those philologists, editors, critics. They check passports, give verdicts, not always accurate or timely. At the same time, boxing effortlessly fights the decadence and becomes better on each of its levels.
Boxing is better than poetry, frankly. This explains intellectuals' desire to marginalize such pieces of culture which still do have life, aggression in them. From century to century, people of elitist culture aim at everything genuine and natural, denying in this their own culture as fake.
There is something ancient in poetry, from which it partially derives its strength.
But we talk about a sort of proto-human nature of boxing. It is hard to come up with anything more ancient than fighting and the demonstration of force.
Having as its goal the full realization of what is locked up in it, poetry goes further, more ancient, than is possible for it, and almost always fails. Therefore it envies everything archaic, instinctive, more deeply hidden. Sometimes it envies talentfully, therefore it's forgivable that most of the time it doesn't.
translated with Verena Podolsky
edited by Anthony Stoner