And the critical look at the Silliman Links of 8/12/13 continues…
61. Galleycat reports that “USA ranked 23rd in World for Time Spent Reading” which we have a feeling is one of those stats that means absolutely nothing.
62. The TYEE, British Columbia’s “Home for News, Culture and Solutions” asks “What’s Happened to Canadian Literature?” This might sound cruel, but, who cares?
63. Janet Maslin reviews David Rakoff’s novel in verse, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, which to us sounds like the worst title for a novel, ever. But the well-written review makes this book sound pretty darn good. The rollicking “Twas the Night Before Christmas and all through the house” meter of Anaspestic Tetrameter is used to tell a largely tragic American tale of Dickensian dimensions and we say bravo to the late David Rakoff for writing it and the NY Times for noticing it.
64. Lisa Darms reviews her own book, Grrrl, Collected, ‘zines of feminist punk, the 90s Riot Grrrl era, in the Paris Review. Women will always be women, no matter how many different styles of attractive walls they put around themselves. Go, Riot Grrrls!
65. “America, Meet Your Poets,” says Seth Abramson in the Huffington Post. America’s Poets, according to Abramson, are the exploding population of Writing Program graduates—and this is a good thing. The English Major is dying, Abramson points out, but no need to worry: Creative Writing is here to stay, and Abramson quotes John Ashbery saying “what first awakened him to the joys of poetry” was realizing that poetry was not something “lifeless” in a “museum,” but “must have grown out of the lives of those who wrote it.” This is not only wrong on many levels, but also a big flag with John Crowe Ransom’s name on it: the document that Abramson needs to read and the truth he needs to get can be found in Ransom’s 1930s essay, “Criticism, Inc.” The English Major who studies Shakespeare does not study something “lifeless.” And if a living poet is a bad poet, as far as he is a poet, that he is “living” is a bad thing. Ransom’s complaint that professors of Keats were just “watering their own gardens” and his solution: professional critics trained by the academy to understand “the new writing” is the template of the Program era. Poets breeding in universities is not precisely what Ransom set down, but he was smart enough that we can easily blame him. Today it is simply out of control, and so everyone is to blame. Poets like Abramson, who are simply perpetuating the problem, are not nearly as clever as Ransom—who started the problem.
66. Scottish Review of Books presents Iain Bamforth and Rob Mackenzie. “Crackling tower” and “roots of mountains” poetry.
67. NPR reviews Robert Pinsky’s Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters. Note the prominence of “write” over “read”—a result of the Program Era. Also note “Masters”in the title: again, a reaction to the Program Era—Pinsky is going over the heads of contemporary poet professors in the university and conjuring up a pre-Program Era golden age when poets learned their craft, not from some obscure poet who managed to get a cooked-up writing prize and land a teaching position, but from the masters. We have only a couple of things to say re: verse and song in poetry: 1. Edgar Poe’s long essay “The Rationale of Verse” is all one needs to read on the subject. 2. The current fashion of talking about verse in terms of what your lips, teeth and saliva ought to be doing is absolutely disgusting, not to mention the inanity of “breaths” and “white spaces” and “line-breaks” and “sentences” and “cadences.” Just shut up, all of you. We’ll tell you what you can do with your “Singing School.”
68. “On being too old for Saul Bellow” brings us to “Slate’s Best and Worst Summer Romances.” Wrong link. But let’s push on…
69. Poetry Daily looks back 10 years: Bush was president, Dana Gioia was the NEA Chairman, and Laura Bush had cancelled the Poetry at the White House. Daisy Fried’s “Snapshots at a Conference,” takes a journalistic peek at a state poet laureate pow wow in New Hampshire in April, 2003. Fried observes, ruminates, and tries hard not to be condescending. A good piece of writing.
70. Flannery O’Connor and her peacocks, a story in the NY Daily News.
71. Black Mountain College archive snapshots reveal the rather mundane “farm life” aspect of this storied avant-garde institution.
72. continent. More hackneyed philosophical musings from this amusingly pretentious website. “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book” earnestly defines terms like hypotaxis until you wish you were just curled up with a good dictionary. They quote Sartre at one point, and this sums up the whole tenor of their approach: “For when one has nothing to say, one can say everything.” Right.
73. Here’s an exciting story from the NY Times: U. Texas, Austin, acquires archives of McSweeney’s.
74. Stephen King and his wife got their kids to record books-on-tape for them. The NY Times magazine looks at the King family.
75. Public Radio East reports that Barbara Mertz, mystery novelist, dies.
76. Rob Wilson attempts to prove in his paper “Towards the Nuclear Sublime: Representations of Technological Vastness in Postmodern American Poetry” that the “nuclear sublime” dwarfs all other literary sublimes and fails—the premise is bankrupt. It doesn’t matter how big a nuclear explosion is, or how many people are afraid of it; the literary sublime exists in words. We don’t like to state the obvious, but in the face of Wilson’s pedantry, what can we do? Not that the paper is not without its minor interest (as Wilson quotes Robert Lowell, we catch a whiff of Mark Edmundson!) but the Post-Modernist audacity of favorably comparing the atom bomb to Niagara Falls in terms of aesthetic sublimity, is merely cute—and block-headed.
77. Here, in his infinite wisdom, Ron Silliman links Scarriet: “Poetry Will Be Dead In 15 Minutes, Or Modernists, Flarfists and Po-Mos Just A Bunch Of Assholes?” Now that’s sublime. Ron’s link says,
“Scarriet declares itself both anti-modern and pre-modern.” Yes. A time-traveling aesthetic is a noble thing.
78. Australian director Brian Fairbairn has made a short film on “What English Sounds Like To People Who Don’t Speak It.”
79. The LA Times calls for Op-Ed-Poems in old-fashioned forms (no foul language) for its August 25 issue.
80. The Missouri Review offers “10 Things Emerging Writers Need To Learn.” The 11th is: ignore this list.
81. The poet David Kirby heaps praise on emerging poet Adam Fitzgerald in the NY Times Sunday Book Review. To make his review more believable, Kirby goes out of his way to acknowledge how much “bad poetry” there is today as he insists that Adam Fitzgerald is a “new and welcome sound in the aviary of contemporary poetry.” But then we get a sample of Fitzgerald’s poetry:
These stanzas from “The Map” suggest the silky luxury of the entire book:
I was shipwrecked on an island of
The sun’s pillars bored me though, so I
set foot on a small indigo place
below orange falls and hexagonal
I was able to stay there a fortnight,
restlessly roaming the buttered air
inside tropical rock enclosures,
caves of foliage that canopied dankness.
Humming water and fetid air felt nice.
But the gentle leisure of itching, staring,
distracted me. I frequented streets
in dreams, or in the paintings of dreams.
This is perhaps the worst poetry we have ever read. “I was shipwrecked on an island of clouds” is not something even A.A. Milne would have Winnie-the-Pooh say. Winnie-the-Pooh rose into the sky by a balloon with the purpose of getting honey from a nest of bees in a tree. But the poet Adam Fitzgerald finds himself “shipwrecked on an island of clouds.” He gets “bored, though” and so “set[s] foot on a small indigo place” and is “able to stay there a fortnight,” and there “restlessly roam[s] the buttered air.” How to imagine this: buttered air. Restlessly roaming the buttered air. Then it gets all the more wonderful, as the poet finds that “humming water” and “fetid air” feels “nice.” But oh no! “The gentle leisure of itching, staring,/ distracted me, I frequented streets/in dreams…”
82. continent, in a brief July 9 post, opines that “to love literature is to be in love with the dead. Necrophilia.“ Well, I’ll be damned!
TO BE CONTINUED