SILLIMAN LINKS, PART 2

21. Scottish Poetry Library blog mourns the death of young singer-songwriter, poet Lise Sinclair. We do, too.

22. Boston Book Review interviews Maureen McLane, author of Her Poets, chapters of which first appeared in the BBR.

23-26. Culture.pl issues notices of Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Symborska, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, and Alexsander Wat.

27. British Museum blog reports another digitized translation of Homer’s Iliad. Silliman does care about the past!

28. Small Press Distribution blog reports sales rankings for the last few years.  We’ve never read any of these books.

29. Blues.Gr blog interviews Jim McCrary, poet from Lawrence, KS, who partied with Ginsberg and Burroughs.  We’re supposed to envy the snobby/workingclass tawdriness of it all.

30. Jean Daive poems (wretched little things).

31. Denver Westword Blog interviews Anne Waldman on her new book, Grossamurmur, The Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University at Bolder, etc  She’s a good Buddhist.  And good.

32. The Economist reports Germany’s state owned railway is discouraging the use of Denglisch: German Anglicisms.  Those Germans.  Always up to no good.

33. Brooklyn Poets interviews Matthea Harvey, who feels very five minutes ago.  She thinks pets are really cool, which is just great.

34. Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, the first page (typed) with his edits.  The archival humanizing of Ashbery begins.

35. Fiction Writers Review: “Why Fiction Writers Should Read Poetry” by Lucas Hunt.  Boring, trite.  “Poetry is the mud that grows the seed that becomes the forest.”  Or something.

36. The Atlantic “The Hole In Our Collective Memory”  Amazon numbers: books still under copyright (mid-20th century) lose out to very recent books and books in the public domain (19th century, early 20th cen). More research that bears out the obvious.  But nice to know.

37. Huffpost Blog piece on plagiarism by famous poets and songwriters by David Galenson, Professor of Economics at U. Chicago: Lots of big photos of the Beatles, etc.  Not one example of plagiarism.  Doh!

38. Paul Hoover cheerfully interviewed on all the reading that went into compiling his Norton Post-Modern Poetry anthology.  On UPenn.  Good for you, Paul.

39. Huffpost Detroit: Elmore Leonard in hospital.  (He’s now dead.)

40. Sesame Street parodies “Sons of Anarchy” with “Sons of Poetry” reports USA Today.

41. NYTimes on government’s victory over Apple on E-book price fixing.

42. BBC: Publishers defend Apple.

43. Web Urbanist tells us that a closed Walmart now houses the largest library in the U.S.

44. Solmaz Sharif, by way of William Carlos Williams, makes several artsy-fartsy remarks in the Kenyon Review blog on the Washington Post seeking op-ed political poems.  Apparently some poets are incensed the Post wants new opinion couched in old-fashioned poetry.

45-50. Jorie Graham’s in-laws sell Washington Post. Weighing in briefly are the Economist, HuffPost, and the New Yorker, the latter joking that Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos clicked on “Buy Post” by mistake.  Walter Isaacson says Bezos is OK; just a “customer service” guy.  According to Huffpost Business, the recent failure of Kaplan Higher Education, the for-profit college conglomerate, a revenue winner until recently, and owned by the Washington Post, was key to the Post’s financial troubles.

51. Economist looks at star journalists breaking away from their newspapers.

52. Philadelphia Business Journal looks at newspapers’ financial fall.  In a related itemThe New York Times owned The Boston Globe. That sports injustice has been revenged, as John Henry, Red Sox owner, just purchased the Globe for a song.

53. A review of Jane Yeh’s book of poems, The Ninjas.  The reviewer is excited.  We’re not.

54. continent is a new blog which sounds like undergraduate philosophy students trying to say something clever about Modernism so that it makes a kind of abstract, theoretical sense without making any sense.  In this particular link on Samuel Beckett’s “Failure to Fail,” Beckett and Gertrude Stein are quoted as producing language that “goes on” without making sense—which is pure “genius,” apparently.

55. Endgame by Becket on-line.

56. George Stanley’s book of poetry, After Desire, has a trailer on Vimeo.

57. continent on “Political Poetry” in terms of Capitalist-hating, lots of weed-smoking, self-consciously optimistic in a “negative capability,”pro-art, pro-writing kind of way.  Touchingly sincere. Predictable.

58. Flavorwire’s “23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013”  This list has been roundly attacked for being too “white.”  As for the poetry, Patricia Lockwood’s “Rape Joke,” which has made something of a Facebook splash, reads like a New Yorker short story, except for the repetition of the phrase, “the rape joke,” which means “the rapist.”  “Rape Joke” has a darkly comic narrative power, which we applaud.  Unfortunately, none of the other poems linked are very good, with perhaps the exception of Ariana Reines—who just happens to write about “fucking” a lot—whose poem has a certain coherency and intelligence.  The typical poem here, the chief feature of which is “I’m a bored adolescent who can’t write in complete sentences!” doesn’t fly.  Not that neatly written prose—the poem by Thomas Sayers Ellis, for instance—automatically makes a poem better.  We see the prosaic and the non-prosaic.  But not much poetry.  O Program Era, what hast thou wrought?

59. Flavorwire’s “A List of Things to Ask Yourself When You’re Making A List of Poets” falls under the category of Duh.

60. Vincent Toro’s list on the English Kills Review, a counter to Flavorwire’s, is an indignant ethical list of 23, but it is a list, on a quick read, with more interesting poets: Natalie Diaz, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Urayoan Noel, Idra Novey, and Patrick Rosal.  6 out of 23 is a pretty good percentage these days. We especially liked “In the Faraway Suburbs” by Noel and “My Mother Will Take A Lover” by Guerrero.” Congratulations, Vincent.  You win the battle of the Lists.

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS? FRANZ WRIGHT BATTLES JAMES TATE!!!

Franz Wright fans gather excitedly for the big match.

James Tate and Franz Wright, born in the booming, volatile middle of the 20th century, grew in the intellectual climate of the partying 1970s when the Iowa poetry workshop took control of poetry and America went from heroic and expansive to bureaucratic and self-pitying.  Well, America was never heroic and expansive, except when we were fighting the British; since Emerson, American intellectual life has been solidly and politely apologetic and anti-heroic. 

Sometime between the insanity that was WW I and the insanity that was WW II, American poetry became an Africa, and Paul Engle became our Cecil Rhodes. 

The basic elements of literary life are pretty simple when it comes to savvy male poets like Tate and Wright.   Tate and Wright would make great clowns, or fools, in a Shakespeare play: Tate, sarcastic, Wright, sad.  The Romantic poet, or Hamlet—which the modern poet has never escaped—was pathetic/heroic; our contemporaries like Tate and Wright are merely pathetic, and of course I don’t mean pathetic in the modern, slangy sense, but aesthetic pathos.   But pathos is never enough: with Tate, the heroic has been replaced by a rueful humor and Tate’s poetry is wicked, fast, and fun, written on-the-run and off-the-cusp and now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t and where’s-the-next-party-anyway?  Franz Wright chooses a different path; the nerdy kid not invited to the party, Franz broods on his poems, he writes them slowly and contemplatively and instead of adding something else to pathos, he’s crazy enough to think that he can keep up the romantic trope and do the pathetic/heroic—in a grand, vengeful, wise-man, nerdy sort of way.

Wright and Tate were only given one poem in Rita Dove’s recent Penguin anthology—which they both triumphed with in Round One, but now their selections must come from elsewhere as they attempt Sweet 16. 

Note here how Wright plays the Romantic pathetic/heroic card.  You can see the heroic in the adjective “vast” and in the stunning image of Romantic-era Walt Whitman at the end of the poem.  Sure, the pathetic exists here, too, but Wright is one of the few contemporary poets who goes for the Romantic heroic trope as well.

WHEELING MOTEL

The vast waters flow past its back yard.
You can purchase a six-pack in bars!
Tammy Wynette’s on the marquee
 
a block down. It’s twenty-five years ago:
you went to death, I to life, and
which was luckier God only knows.

There’s this line in an unpublished poem of yours.
The river is like that,
a blind familiar.

The wind will die down when I say so;
the leaden and lessening light on
the current.

Then the moon will rise
like the word reconciliation,
like Walt Whitman examining the tear on a dead face.

With Tate, we are fully in the 20th century—no Romantic heroism for him.  This poem reminded me of Becket’s Godot,  and note the pathos combined with the rueful humor:

SUCCESS COMES TO COW CREEK

I sit on the tracks,
a hundred feet from
earth, fifty from the
water. Gerald is

inching toward me
as grim, slow, and
determined as a
season, because he
has no trade and wants
none. It’s been nine months
since I last listened
to his fate, but I
know what he will say:
he’s the fire hydrant
of the underdog.

When he reaches my
point above the creek,
he sits down without
salutation, and
spits profoundly out
past the edge, and peeks
for meaning in the
ripple it brings. He
scowls. He speaks: when you
walk down any street
you see nothing but
coagulations
of shit and vomit,
and I’m sick of it.
I suggest suicide;
he prefers murder,
and spits again for
the sake of all the
great devout losers.

A conductor’s horn
concerto breaks the
air, and we, two doomed
pennies on the track,
shove off and somersault
like anesthetized
fleas, ruffling the
ideal locomotive
poised on the water
with our light, dry bodies.
Gerald shouts
terrifically as
he sails downstream like
a young man with a
destination. I
swim toward shore as
fast as my boots will
allow; as always,
neglecting to drown.

“as fast as my boots will allow; as always, neglecting to drown” captures the whole pathos essence of James Tate and the replacement of the Romantic pathos/heroic with the Modern alternative of pathos/self-deprecating humor.

Here is the origin of Slam poetry—as written poetry evolves into stand-up comedy before a live audience.  

Pure poetry is something that is read by one person alone, and there is no design upon that person except that they enjoy a poetic experience, far removed from everything else, and, hopefully, in some way superior to that ‘everything else.’ 

Slam poetry, which, ironically, truly developed out of the poetry workshop atmosphere, and not the tavern, embraces the ‘everything else,’ stoops to it, revels in it, and the ‘live poetry’ experience is all about one person’s design on another, whether to impress a teacher in a worshop seminar, or to get laid in a bar.  Of course reading poems aloud in bars or in the street might seem like something which has always occured and has nothing to do with academics, but this, I maintain, is a romantic falsehood, and the people who go to bars and walk down the street in bygone days had the good sense to know that poetry does not belong in bars—only drinking songs do.

Wright is obviously infected with Slam (his reference to Tammy Wynette) but the irony here is that his reference to Whitman is Slam pathos, too.  Whitman is not pure poetry.  He, too, has designs on us.  Walt was the first Slam poet, before the horror of Slam existed. Whitman has become a circus in himself, and now represents the same cheap, honky-tonk Slam poetry atmosphere which the schools unconsciously promote.

But Wright’s a smart poet, and his “examining a tear on a dead face” is an attempt to reverse this Slam trend and bring Whitman back to some Romantic semblance of heroicism and feeling.

Tate tells better jokes, the guy with boots who “neglects to drown” is brilliant, and perhaps Wright is just sorry and pathetic, but we need to give Wright points for his brooding insights and sensibility. 

Go, men in black!

Wright 75, Tate 73

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