The education of one's desire for the pleasures of poetry does indeed resemble a process of initiation, which makes Houlihan's metaphor a reasonably sound one. And it makes sense that she, a practicing poet, a grown-up for heaven's sakes, wouldn't want to assume the posture of submission demanded of initiates. Young people and students are generally more able to muster the necessary humility to receive knowledge from elders and Those In The Know, eventually becoming one of those elders capable of bestowing intitations themselves. The rebellious and those who have already educated their tastes to a considerable degree will balk at this, and it's hard to blame them. But while many poets actively embrace the model of initiation (Robert Duncan is the most famous example) and many more passively practice it, I prefer my own model of public vs. private property. It's more secular, and it also turns the moral equation around—so that avant-garde poets, instead of appearing as a privileged priesthood that anyone with democratic instincts would want to throw rocks at, appear as private citizens seizing the cultural birthright that has been denied them, and all of us.
Yeh, yeh, Josh. I'll be a bad boy and balk at the mentorship program. And I really agree with the heart of your post: the public v private angle. H may be a practicing poet, but it's all that cozying-up to a good read with tea and burping up a bit of acidic bile upon finding a challenge that annoys me. Anthologies never capture what they seek to capture, and the BAP must really offend readers as a result. I don't read them. But I do get the feeling that our practicing poet, H, would have been less tempted to criticize had its editors loaded it with nature poems of Montana and Wyoming or sonnets and sestinas.
In addition, we don't have a cultural birthright.