Assuredly, many acclaimed poets are no match to Shakespeare.
December 6, 2011 12:56 PM Subscribe
posted by joannemerriam (77 comments total)
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Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove
edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry
, released in October. Harvard
professor and critic Helen Vendler
objects to Dove's choices
; Dove reacts
(and Vendler, succinctly, replies, "I have written the review and I stand by it.") and so do other critics, with charges of racism
and, relatedly, too narrow a view of poetic traditions
More on Vendler's approach to poetry in this Paris Review interview
, where she says, in part: I don’t believe that poems are written to be heard, or as Mill said, to be overheard; nor are poems addressed to their reader. I believe that poems are a score for performance by the reader, and that you become the speaking voice. You don’t read or overhear the voice in the poem, you are the voice in the poem. You stand behind the words and speak them as your own—so that it is a very different form of reading from what you might do in a novel where a character is telling the story, where the speaking voice is usurped by a fictional person to whom you listen as the novel unfolds.
Dove's reaction in part says: "From [Dove's] choices no principle of selection emerges," Vendler grouses, and at last we arrive at the crux of her predisposition: in her system, an anthologist must have an agenda and is expected to drive that agenda home, sidelining her enemies and promoting her preferences with no attempt at impartial judgment. Actually, I am proud that no principle of selection emerges. My criterion was simple: choose significant poems of literary merit.