We are a guanxi of poets united by our distaste for schools, in-groups, elite clubs, handshakes secret or otherwise, anthologies that we’re not in, and the virus that is the twitterati. We believe we will ultimately be among the immortals – indeed we feel in our poem-bones that we already all – yet winning big prizes or publishing in prestigious journals or dropping important names (such as Ilya Kaminsky or Sharon Olds or Ocean Vuong or especially Jorie Graham) are surefire ways to be excommunicated, kicked out of the wilderness that we have made our poetic home. When we stand, we stand with the canceled and with founding member Luke Johnson, who inspired us into existence when he wrote that he is “really disappointed the poets I read doing tremendous work are wandering the wilderness”. But mostly we sit, in coffeeshops or lonely domiciles, in front of screens filling with our words. We doubt our words and ourselves and that breaks our hearts. We believe in residencies though we’ve never actually seen one. We roll in thunder. We collapse in ecstasy. We rip our clothes off and moon the moon while dancing the mysteries. We stand against rejection. We reject rejection. We believe that most poets were rejects in junior high, so some of them invented po-biz as a sort of junior high in which everyone talks about Keats and Plath rather than about varsity football and who has a crush on whom.
*The Wilderness School, est. May 2022, is a Facebook Group consisting of poets who are non-joiners. As such, it’s been an uphill climb trying to build membership. Still, we have somehow gathered over 100 members thus far. This is our manifesto, intended to be sort of tongue in cheek, kind of like “Personism” by Frank O’Hara.