I think a certain amount of stupidity is necessary to cultivate an appreciation for poetry. A certain amount, as in not too much and not too little. Too much, and one is not able to appreciate much of anything worthwhile. Too little, and one will bypass poetry's sleights of mind entirely, going on to industrial engineering or nuclear medicine or hotel management.
The susceptible stand before poetry like gullible five-year-olds before uncles who pull coins from behind their ears. Initially, it's very impressive--and being impressed in that way is a true pleasure--but if they are capable of learning, eventually they develop some savvy and learn to see the uncle as a schmuck unless he can come up with some more impressive tricks. Depending on the strength of the savvy, at some point no trick, no matter how spectacular, will make any impression, because even if one doesn't know how the trick was done, one knows it was a trick. This is why only children and idiots like magic acts. Or other magicians, who are always looking for new techniques to use on their own idiots.
One thing you don't see much of in the magic business, I'm guessing, is magicians who fall for their own tricks. That wouldn't just be stupidity; it would be psychosis. In poetry, however, it's fairly common. Draw your own conclusions.
Let's grant, however, that there are some important differences between poetry and stage magic. For one thing, poetry often comes with an entire apparatus of histories and contexts with which not only its practitioners but its readers--depending on the poetic tradition--are encouraged to become familiar. There is, as I said earlier, a limit to the amount of requisite stupidity. One must be stupid in some ways and not in others, and the ways in which one is not stupid must be carefully monitored so as not to counteract the ways in which one is stupid. Accordingly, one learns things about the lives of individual poets, the development of movements, the applications of specialized theories to given poetics, and so on; but, in any event, this learning must not be allowed to impinge on the maintenance of certain crucial blind spots. For instance, there is the blind spot that allows one to entertain the notion that placing words in a certain order, making them sound a certain way, etc., will result in some kind of transformative state of awareness or spiritual (or pseudo-spiritual) receptivity.
Visualize Emily Dickinson's famous quote about good poetry being that which takes the top of your head off. We're basically talking about a lobotomy here, or a shotgun accident. Note that she never says anything about putting the top back on.
Obviously I'm included in this equation, as I continue energetically to pursue the writing, reading, and teaching of poetry. So what's my deal, besides clearly being stupid? I could come up with all kinds of justificatory apologiae, as many of us could. In fact, that's one answer: the elaborate self-justifications poetry forces us to devise are in themselves amusing distractions at worst, and mind-sharpening exercises at best. I also think of the process by which we move, if our imaginations are at all flexible and dynamic, from poets who engage us initially and even for long stretches to those we can eventually still tolerate. My theory here is that there are some poets who are especially valuable for their ability to interest us over long stretches of time, even though we ultimately (if we are not too stupid) learn to see through their crap. Ezra Pound, for instance. I think anyone who is serious about modernist and postmodernist poetry in the Western tradition should read Pound, and tackle his various difficulties (though not, perhaps, to the extent Pound himself insisted we should tackle them, seeing how short life is and all). I even think it's useful to spend a considerable chunk of one's poetry-reading life under the Poundian spell, as long as one doesn't also adopt his hideous political and social ideology.
As an extension of this, it's useful to check out what later poets like Charles Olson and Louis Zukofsky and Allen Ginsberg did with their own immersion in Pound's poetics. But it's also useful, as one becomes more and more familiar with all of this, to leave oneself open to the realization that Pound was basically an idiot. So was Olson. Learned, creative idiots, to be sure, but just plain dumb all the same, in the sense that those who will not bother to wash themselves or realize that rabbits' feet don't work are dumb. For that matter, Ginsberg and even Zukofsky had some serious stupidity issues in some areas.
I say "even" Zukofsky because for me, he is the one of those I've mentioned who continues to interest me the most as a poet, who still offers what I consider the most intriguing strategies for both the enjoyment and production of poetry. To a lesser extent, Ginsberg still does this as well, though he has largely moved into the category of poets I am glad to have at one point had available as a formative model. It's difficult (though not impossible) to imagine an occasion in the foreseeable future when I will suddenly feel like sitting down and reading him again. I feel too much like I know how he does his quarter-behind-the-ears trick.
Even as I write, however, I feel compunctions: I would hate for anyone impressionable to read this and decide, well, that's probably right, Mohammad seems like a reliable voice, I won't bother reading Ginsberg (or Pound, or Olson--well, I guess I don't care if they don't read Olson). Don't take my word for anything. Don't be stupid.