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October 5, 2001
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So this year's Best American Poetry book is out, which means it's time once again for me to feel (English-major) guilt about not enjoying, or even "getting," more contemporary poetry. It looks like I'm not the only one, though, who wonders, "Does anybody like these poems?" Poet Joan Houlihan likens this collection to a "suburban poetry mall." (via Arts & Letters Daily)
posted by arco (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I have never understood most contemporary poetry. I write poems, but they are actually poems, they rhyme and make sense(to me). If the snippets she has in the article are representative of the book, I'll not be buying it.
posted by bjgeiger at 7:32 AM on October 5, 2001


“The Best American Poetry is committed to the notion that excellence in poetry is not incompatible with the pursuit of a general audience.”

Which is why that "Poetry Channel" thing worked out so well.
posted by jennyjenny at 7:35 AM on October 5, 2001


Aren't these collections always suburban malls? Either they're marred by thematic rules (gender poems, racial poems, poems about father, poems about mother, poem with philosophical allusions) or they feature the same poets (Ashbery, Merwin, Graham, Rich) that you could find in a couple issues of The New Yorker. I haven't bought one of these collections in a few years because of previous disappointments, so I reserve the fact that I may not know what I'm talking about, but it seems better for me when I buy individual books of people I've found to be great (Ira Sadoff, Anne Carson, Dean Young, Tony Hoagland).

Maybe a more important question: Does anyone read contemporary poetry? If yes, is it because a) you have to for school, b) you have to for work, or c) you're a poet yourself?
posted by rosecrans at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2001


Sadoff is one reason i got out of the poetry thing. What a collection of fools and the politics are unreal. Plato is right, the poet has no place in the republic. I think the last good book of poetry was 'garbage' by Ammons.
posted by newnameintown at 7:52 AM on October 5, 2001


This is why restaurants offer big menus: lots of different tastes out there.
posted by Postroad at 7:55 AM on October 5, 2001


> This is why restaurants offer big menus: lots of different
> tastes out there.

But the best restaurants always specialize. And in the cooking world, people aren't stupid enough to pretend that everyone is a good cook.
posted by pracowity at 8:11 AM on October 5, 2001


There hasn't been any significant modern verse since "Ancient Music" by Ezra Pound, though I do enjoy some of the beatnik stuff (in small infrequent doses) like Allen Ginsberg's "Howl!" or "Christ Climbed Down" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I met Richard Brautigan during an 1980 book tour (four years before he killed himself). I enjoy his observational writing, but I have trouble calling it "poetry". It's the same problem I have wil most all modern poets -- they bristle so mightily at the concept of structure or form that they go out of their way to avoid it entirely (and mock people who admire it). Ironically, in their zeal to avoid traditional forms they are largely interchangeable, unremarkable and indistiguishable from one another. Their poetry is more epigram; a clever turn of phrase more appropriate to a narrative short story. (Yes, I am generalizing -- but not a helluva lot). Call me old fashioned, call me stuffy, (hell) call me anal-retentive, but I expect a bit of craftsmanship and artifice in poetry. If it's something most people could toss off with little (or no) thought, then it ain't poetry in my book.

In a way, they sort of remind me of that glut of modern "artists" we're cursed with. Although there are a few genuinely gifted ones with something significant to say, they are largely drowned out by the tripe offered up by a legion of clowns who merely pretend to prefer the (alleged) freedom of modern art -- because they couldn't draw in perspective or grok the concept of shading if you held a gun to their heads. Show me a modern artist who the talent to have a choice about their style. Maybe they exist, but they are few and far between.
posted by RavinDave at 8:21 AM on October 5, 2001


I tracked down an online version of Harold Bloom's introduction to the Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997, which is the only one from this series I actually own (I think). Yes, it's cranky, but it's also interesting, if for no other reason than the force of Bloom's convictions (his trademark). Has anybody else read this (especially you poets out there)? If so, what are your reactions? As I said earlier, my experience with contemporary poetry is severely limited, so I don't feel qualified to fully react to Bloom's assertions.

This is why restaurants offer big menus...
Yeah, but these "Best American X" books feel more like Applebee's than Sardi's.
posted by arco at 8:23 AM on October 5, 2001


One of the offending lines:


I thought I saw a turtledove resting in a waffle.
Then I saw it was a rat doing something awful.


Hee hee hee.
posted by ColdChef at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2001


I thought I was a decent poet, and had even won a couple prizes at the undergrad level, until Professor Murphy of Union College made me write structured poetry. Then I truly understood that poetry is about language.

Some contemporary poets appear to think it is about being enigmatic, or about succeeding in university politics.

I'll probably buy the book, because I so want to be proven wrong.
posted by kcmoryan at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2001


There hasn't been any significant modern verse since "Ancient Music" by Ezra Pound,

You obviously have never read James Merrill, especially The Changing Light at Sandover a twentieth century Divine Comedy.
posted by dnash at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2001


kcmoryan: good for you (seriously). I hope you continue to persue structured poetry.

My biggest beef with modern poetry (and painting, and filmmaking) is that most of the "artists" are broadly ignorant, considering themselves to be somehow above history, rules, and tradition. It was a revelation to see that Picasso started out doing very traditional work -- and he was very good then, too.

Bly talks about the "artistic bank account" where all artists participate. We're either making deposits (not necessarily traditional approaches, but viewable using traditional metrics) or withdrawls (which require *completely* new thinking). The trouble, as he describes it, is that the number of people making withdrawls vastly exceeds the number of people making deposits. It's a good point, and one I'm not paraphrasing very well.

It's hard to find good *American* poetry these days, but expand your horizons and there's always something worthwhile out there...
posted by terceiro at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2001


My biggest beef with modern poetry (and painting, and filmmaking) is that most of the "artists" are broadly ignorant, considering themselves to be somehow above history, rules, and tradition. It was a revelation to see that Picasso started out doing very traditional work -- and he was very good then, too.

Very nice. Very true.

"Before one goes about breaking rules, it is always a good idea to understand them first."

Hey! I just wrote a modern American poem!
posted by RavinDave at 9:08 AM on October 5, 2001


Ravin:

because they couldn't draw in perspective or grok the concept of shading if you held a gun to their heads. Show me a modern artist who the talent to have a choice about their style. Maybe they exist, but they are few and far between.

I think this is a great misconception many people have about modern art, and i realize it's an analogy purposed to talk about formalism in poetry, but it is a statement in need of addressing.

it's actually very rare for an artist who hasn't been 'trained' formally to find work in the art world; thus about every artist you see in a museum will have put in their dues doing the sort of 'drafting' tasks you talk about (trust me, i went to 'art school'). the reason they don't do work like that is because it's mostly irrelevant to work being done today. It's because they have an idea of history that they don't do drafting, not because they don't. Not to say that there *isn't* room for drafting in art today; i think you'll see many artists who draw beautifully. But to unilaterally assert that all artists are crap because they don't (or hell, even can't) draw is absurd. if you want straight lines and landscapes look to architecture or design.

Sorry for not addressing the poetry issue, but i read very little poetry. not a huge fan.
posted by fishfucker at 9:33 AM on October 5, 2001


I'm an English major too, and I stopped feeling guilty about having no interest in or knowledge of modern American poetry some time ago. Too much of it is just so horrible that it makes me angry enough not to want to search out the rest.

I continue to believe that the same proportion of gifted poets are born today as has always been the case, though, and I look forward to the day when some of them make the effort to learn their craft.

Until then, it's Alexander Pope, I guess.
posted by Hildago at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2001


Your intellectual protests are a bore...
posted by tigger26 at 9:48 AM on October 5, 2001


speaking of Modern American Poets, James Tate is someone worth reading, I think. The Lost Pilot is, I hope, something that will be remembered from our time.
posted by ipsedixit at 9:50 AM on October 5, 2001


What a bunch of snobby oneupmanship. "There hasn't been any significant modern verse since "Ancient Music" by Ezra Pound," indeed. To pick one of Pound's works and denigrate the Pisan Cantos, not to mention Paterson, "Briggflats," and the total work of all poets since 1920...? This is more a judgment on you than on the poetry.

Call me old fashioned, call me stuffy, (hell) call me anal-retentive, but I expect a bit of craftsmanship and artifice in poetry

Wallace Stevens
Hart Crane
Marianne Moore
Louis Zukofsky
A.R. Ammons (props to clavdivs)
John Berryman
Robert Lowell
Elizabeth Bishop
Robert Creeley
Jack Spicer
James Merrill
Kenneth Koch
Frank O'Hara
John Ashbery
Louise Gluck
Galway Kinnell
Tom McGuane
Jerome Rothenberg
David Meltzer
Philip Larkin

I don't enjoy all of these people equally (in some cases very little), but they all have, in their various ways, as much artfulness as one could wish. And some of the most "artful" (*cough*Allen Tate *cough*) write dreadful, airless shite, as poets ever have (*cough* Tennyson *cough*).

I thought I saw a turtledove resting in a waffle.
Then I saw it was a rat doing something awful.


Could be from Rasselas.
posted by rodii at 10:43 AM on October 5, 2001


I actually read contemporary poetry---and I do it because I *like* to read poetry. Mostly I buy single-author collections & I chose them by reading a few poems to see if this is somebody whose work I might like. I've an old-fashioned fondness for structure and song. If you do too, try George Starbuck, Marilyn Hacker, Molly Peacock....
posted by realjanetkagan at 10:44 AM on October 5, 2001


That is too true
posted by h0ney at 10:45 AM on October 5, 2001


i'm only somewhat of a poetry fan -- i prefer prose to poetry -- but let me ask those of you who do follow contemporary poetry; what's good? artful is nice, of course, but i like artful and substance.

the one relatively (WWI-era) recent poet i've enjoyed was robert frost. not so much for his excursions in nature, but rather because he didn't write poetry for the ladies who giggled while staring at him, or who handed him letters, such as john keats. his focus seemed much darker, more bitter than wistful; more real.
posted by moz at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2001


Just one comment for those who've been complaining about the lack of structure in modern poetry: The fact is, most of the people writing poetry today would write just as badly if they stuck to perfectly formed sonnets. Writing good poetry is hard, and most of the people who attempt it fail miserably most of the time. The advantage earlier poets had was not structure, but writing far enough in the past that the bad stuff has been filtered out.

So, yes, most of the poems in this collection are probably crap, but it's just the current fashion that makes them unstructured pseudointellectual crap, rather than singsongy overstructured sentimental crap like they wrote in the 1800s, or rhetorically overembellished crap like they wrote in the Renaissance.

As for rhyming, I'm with Milton: rhyme in English poetry is an abomination.

Oh, and RavinDave, thanks for linking to Ancient Music. I may not agree with everything you said, but that's a damned funny poem, and I always approve of getting more people to read it.
posted by moss at 1:03 PM on October 5, 2001


I don't think we exist in a proper context to judge the value of what is coming out - the natural process by which literature is selected as valuable takes a long time. I know I wouldn't buy the book. It doesn't mean that some of it isn't important in the big picture.

Nevertheless, Moz, I have to agree.
Robert Frost is a great example of modern American non-drivel. Consider "Into My Own." Frost approaches a meditative self-examination with visually stunning imagery in a way that completely im+-merses the reader. Tim Burton, anyone? However, Moz, I perceive Frost's fantastic use of nature to be the binding element of tone in his poetry. From "Into My Own,"

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.


Beyond Frost, a massive weight is carried through spoken word. Admittedly, much of it is very political, but no general, objective critical standard gives preference to the lack or presence of a political bent. Look to Ani Difranco's "Pulse" from her album Little Plastic Castle. Sekou Sundiata fills his spoken word with a jazz-like tidal ebb that, though very unlike Robert Frost, would certainly capture the inflected meaning Frost spoke of when he discussed "the sound of sense."

Mark Twain, in "Extracts From Captain Stormfield's Visit To Heaven, " makes mention that the greatest writer to ever live went entirely undiscovered. We can't really know what has permanent viability or what doesn't. Of course, if we don't discuss it, nothing will survive. =]
posted by spaceboy86 at 1:12 PM on October 5, 2001


My biggest beef with modern poetry (and painting, and filmmaking) is that most of the "artists" are broadly ignorant, considering themselves to be somehow above history, rules, and tradition. It was a revelation to see that Picasso started out doing very traditional work -- and he was very good then, too.

Clearly Yusef Komunyakaa and Anne Carson and Seamus Heaney should stop writing poems and immerse themselves in the works of past masters until they can approach the lasting genius of John Greenleaf Whittier.

Any number of poets -- Pound (whose "Ancient Music" is damn funny, yes) and Robert Hayden spring to mind for me, but throw a stick in the later pages of the Norton Anthology and you'll hit a half dozen -- were entirely comfortable with the poetic history in which they were following and yet felt that they needn't slavishly imitate their literary ancestors. But if you want to let everything written in the last eighty years moulder in the basement until they acquire enough of a patina to let you appreciate them, go right ahead.
posted by snarkout at 1:48 PM on October 5, 2001


(Hey, I took a class from Robert Hayden!)
posted by rodii at 1:58 PM on October 5, 2001


(Hey, I took a class from Robert Hayden!)
posted by rodii at 1:58 PM on October 5, 2001


Did I mention that I....


Sorry.
posted by rodii at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2001


"Ancient Music" is funny?
posted by daveadams at 2:06 PM on October 5, 2001


Yes. But it may not be clear why it's funny until you read the original.
posted by moss at 2:29 PM on October 5, 2001


Well, it's funny looking.
posted by Skot at 2:31 PM on October 5, 2001


I'm going to skirt around the debate that seems to be brewing here to say that I think Gertrude Stein, George Oppen and Lyn Hejinian and very worthwhile. They're kinda contemporary, right?
posted by juv3nal at 2:39 PM on October 5, 2001


as an aside:

it's interesting to think that maybe where poetry has not necessarily flourished, as far as the minds of many perceive, in the past 20th century, other forms of media have. playwrights: eugene o'neill, august wilson, david mamet, to name a few... film: stanely kubrick, francis ford coppola, martin scorcese, to name a few... obviously not everything that those people have touched turn to gold, but all in all, it's interesting to think that some of the best talent has simply been diluted to other areas of our society.
posted by moz at 2:52 PM on October 5, 2001


Right on, rodii. Those are great poets and they deserve as much attention as Robert Frost (who, by the way, died in 1963 -- and was born in *1874* -- hardly a 'modern' American poet).

I say, welcome to the present day, folks. We live in a time when there is more art, more culture, available to us than ever before. There are thousands of poets publishing every year, thousands of writers publishing real literature, thousands of great musicians out there doing art that matters now. I'm an English major still in school (and in numerous workshops) and the people writing contemporary poetry are the poetic voices of my (our, your) generation. Art did not 'end' in the 1960s as many people seem to believe. Art, good art, gets made every day, and the fact that it's not the same old art that's been made for the last half-century only proves that art is vibrant, alive and relevant.

I have "Best American Poetry 2001" in my hands at this very moment. Not every poem in here is good, but some of them are amazing. There are legitimate gripes about contemporary poetry -- it can be self-absorbed, too intent on the fallacies of language to really enunciate -- but, as at any time in history, there are great writers in amongst the bad and great poems too. You just have to be willing to take your chances and plunge into the fray. These "Best Of" collections are supposed to make that chance as easy to take as possible. But you still have to be willing to put your cash down sight-unseen for poets you haven't heard of.

Read "The Tapeworm Foundry" by Darren Wershler-Henry and then tell me contemporary poetry has nothing to offer!
posted by josh at 3:14 PM on October 5, 2001


it's interesting to think that maybe where poetry has not necessarily flourished, as far as the minds of many perceive, in the past 20th century, other forms of media have.

...

film: stanely kubrick, francis ford coppola, martin scorcese, to name a few...

But even they can't compare to the master filmmakers of the Renaissance, or to the few remarkable fragments we have of Ancient Greek film.

(I'm sorry... I really do get what you're saying... I just couldn't resist.)
posted by moss at 4:59 PM on October 5, 2001


i love it when people with academic backgrounds, academic tastes, who immerse themselves in the contemporary and traditional cannon of writing proscribed by academia, start spouting off about how 'people don't read poetry.'

After reading the posts here, I've done a quick scan of the names mentioned ... Bly, Creely, Gluck, Heaney, the rest of them ... yes, most of the people mentioned in this thread are fine poets, especially within the armchair quarterback confines of a discussion like this. there is a place in the world for this kind of poetry, which it seems to have found in the isolated and largely irrelevant world of classrooms and workshops and visiting professor posts and grants and self-congratulatory awards and collections. Are many of these poets "important," in terms of the current landsape of 'serious' writing? sure. But are they interesting? challenging (and not in a lit-crit deconstruction kind of way)? iconic? at the forefront of life and language as it exists in the world today? can all of the 'seriousness' in the world make up for a conspicuous lack of relevance?

Most people with a background in this kind of poetry won't have heard this little fact: a poet has consistently topped the "most stolen authors" list in both bookstores and libraries since his work became widely available almost three decades ago.

his name is charles bukowski.

i went to a large NYC bookstore once, gripped by an impulse to buy one of his collections that I'd been without for awhile. His work was nowhere to be found on the shelves, I asked a clerk if they had ANY buk in the store, and he replied that yes, they had tons. he then proceeded to get on a ladder and grab a title from a storage shelf above the regular stacks. i didn't see any other poets, much less the ones listed in this thread, whose works were such a hot target that they couldn't even sit on the shelves. hell, this place even had playboy and penthouse on the regular magazine racks.

when people with 'serious' interests bemoan the lack of widespread public passion for 'literature' or 'poetry,' they forget about all of the authors and branches of writing that aren't part of their little club. literature and poetry are both alive and well, thriving even, still able to capture the hearts and minds of the public. Its too bad that so many 'poets' and 'authors' and 'scholars' and 'critics' will never know it.
posted by hipstertrash at 8:07 PM on October 5, 2001


postscript: nosing through the bookstalls in barcelona one afternoon, i came across a spanish language edition of 'post office.' i considered picking it up as a curio in my buk collection, and was trying to figure out how many meals i'd have to skip to afford it when two burly spanish guys in football attire walked past, saw what i was holding, and gave a big grin. "Bukowski!" they said. "hell yes, bukowski!" I replied. "He is very greatest american writer!" one of them said, and I nodded back (too bad they hadn't read Selby). they shook my hand, patted me on the back and went on their way.

I doubt that this would have happend had I been hoilding koch or hayden.
posted by hipstertrash at 8:19 PM on October 5, 2001


i love it when people with academic backgrounds, academic tastes, who immerse themselves in the contemporary and traditional cannon of writing proscribed by academia, start spouting off about how 'people don't read poetry.'

People don't read, period -- so why does this nag at you so? Would you be less offended if Oprah complained that people don't read poetry? It wouldn't be any less true.

But are they interesting? challenging (and not in a lit-crit deconstruction kind of way)? iconic?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

at the forefront of life and language as it exists in the world today?

When has poetry (or any sort of literature) ever been at the forefront of life and language, hipstertrash?


can all of the 'seriousness' in the world make up for a conspicuous lack of relevance?


Relevance measured by what standards? Relevance to what? To whom?

Most people with a background in this kind of poetry won't have heard this little fact:

Generalization. How do you know people "with a background in this kind of poetry" haven't read or enjoyed Bukowski?

when people with 'serious' interests bemoan the lack of widespread public passion for 'literature' or 'poetry,' they forget about all of the authors and branches of writing that aren't part of their little club. literature and poetry are both alive and well, thriving even, still able to capture the hearts and minds of the public.

I'll grant that many (I hate the word, but) intellectuals instantly look down on bestsellers (like Stephen King, for example), but how is this any different from hipster behaviour? And there IS a "lack of widespread public passion" for reading in general -- never mind what you refer to as "literature" or "poetry" -- ask any high school teacher of literature on the planet.

I doubt that this would have happend had I been hoilding koch or hayden.

Would you repeat the anecdote if you'd been holding a Danielle Steele or some other romance author instead of a Bukowski? They're read much more widely than he is (and translated into more languages); but then they don't have Bukowski's street cred. I don't think the shoplifting statistic says anything about the nature of Bukowski's poetry necessarily, just that maybe Bukowski's readers are more prone to shoplifting.
posted by lia at 6:15 AM on October 6, 2001


king and bukowski in the same post...hmmm potato chips. The last best line of poetry was from Pound.."I cannot make it cohere" no one has topped that and thats a fact. Frost was a modern. please do not confuse a time period to a poetic style."I say, welcome to the present day, folks. We live in a time when there is more art, more culture, available to us than ever before. There are thousands of poets publishing every year," then give a me a phaeton and my ticket back to the 20's. Man, most of the "Literature" is shite, pure crap. I remember covering alot of the contemp (MY teacher wrote a book about Heany. so there rodii:) and feeling like these are the last folks writing good stuff. Even the likes of Don Hall have been bitching about "the Death of Poetry" like they control its shape, its form and how it will prevail. (perhaps they do. well, then its time for a purge)HOW SELFISH and egotistic. Total bullshit. (don should have thought it through) Art will survive dispite the efforts of any of us. Art is so imbedded with...this traypsy, nazi like liberal...Name me 10 poets under 35 that are of merit(in mine eyes) and fuck awards, those are for those who cannot support themselves. Ya know who has a great voice, a real voice. Gwen Brooks. My god, it is like talking to a saint. Thats poetry. not Forche or Rich or Sadoff. Bukowski was cool. but a clown, he thumbed his grotty pecker at the lit. est. but sucked its tit just the same. S King is great reading and he is so-phis-to. Hes no John Fowles but i like him and he does more for writers then any other writer. VIVE LA KING."when people with 'serious' interests bemoan the lack of widespread public passion for 'literature' or 'poetry,' they forget about all of the authors and branches of writing that aren't part of their little club. literature and poetry are both alive and well, thriving even, still able to capture the hearts and minds of the public. Its too bad that so many 'poets' and 'authors' and 'scholars' and 'critics' will never know it." WRONG WRONG WRONG> were to start. The club?, it is fragmented, "they" do not want cohesion, they want elitist poetry from non-elitists. I left school because my school allowed some commie to spew about literature in some lecture...."The mainstream, in general, has nothing to offer literature" she said and i went ape shit. no sir, not in the republic. Poetry is a hobby not a profession. remember Apollinaire.
posted by newnameintown at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2001


sorry to rant. that Thobani woman had me in a tizzy. should not post when angry about something else...should...sraint...uze...allpinions expressed by other mefis are valid and filled with that thing these people have been trying to...teacz. directional expression of thought.(though Vncle Clav is working on a way to have it be "of-it-self". existent wether one believes that expression of thought is incapable of achieving anything akin to the communication of information from one human to another or not. "of-it-self" as in existent wither it is "dead" or not. HA_HA. hence my little counter to this "Death of lit" thingie. that its death is invalid, hence any erosion within the medium is due to transferal of said medium. Yez verginny, it is the humans fault on its transferal not the human condition itself:)((hey. i like proof))
posted by newnameintown at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2001


(3) Possibilities:

1.) Stream-of-consciousness poetry.
2.) Emacs Mx dissociated-press mode.
3.) I forgot how to speak English.
posted by RavinDave at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2001


newnameintown - i disagree with so much of what you said, but i love the way that you said it. at least you have passion and guts, two oft-forgotten prerequisites in the discussion of any art.

buk was a clown, but then so was oscar wilde, in his own way. and yeah, he did suck the teat of the establishment for awhile, paying rent and buying booze with reading fees, but his nice suburban home and his bmw were purchased with money made from the sale of his books, not stipends and university salaries.

they want elitist poetry from non-elitists

isn't that kind of like the rich person who looks at the homeless and says "why don't they just buy a house?"

there are lots of rocknroll musicians with enough training and talent to play mozart, but they choose not to. form changes with the times, and until the artistic establishment realizes that we've blown through the barriers between high and low art and can never go back, they will continue to waste away like every other aristocracy has, weakened by inbreeding and atavism.
posted by hipstertrash at 2:41 PM on October 6, 2001


s-ok hip. buk had some wonderful stuff and i like him better then ginsberg(one to many homoerotic poem) and a friend has the local librarys collection of Buks stuff. Im very unforgiving to the art. im bias but i see to much truth in what i said. maybe not that polarized. ive just seen to many good brains being led down the poets path by hands that crave a sycophant and grant $. Like brain washing. elitists want the elitism taken out and replaced with new and improved elitism. of course this is a generalization. but the bad ones seem to do so much damage as to eclipse anything a teacher may(if that is possible) be trying to teach.(i dont believe you can teach someone how to write poetry.)
posted by newnameintown at 9:12 AM on October 7, 2001


i agree with the rock anaolgy. gez, dont even need to list them...well the one whom i would like to have seen progress was Randy Rhodes.
posted by newnameintown at 9:14 AM on October 7, 2001


(i dont believe you can teach someone how to write poetry.)

Poets are the teachers. With a good poet, the voice lasts, and you learn from it long after the teacher is gone. My teacher was ole uncle Ez, the difficult bastard. Among the things he taught was to "break the HEAVE" of iambic, the kind of stuff some of y'all love so much. It's hard to write poetry that's not baDUM baDUM baDUM baDUM baDUM (what the punters call "craft") but that still has any music to it.

As for Buk...the guy could swing but he has nothing to say to me. How many times can you read some variation of "I wiped off on the sheets" before it's time to move on? He's popular the world over because silly bourgeois boys the world over love it when artists pander to their nostalgie de la boue. What could be more satisfying to a young son of the middle class than to be "hipstertrash"?

Suggestion: read Kenneth Koch's "Fresh Air" before you dismiss him as "academic". Funny, astute and unrelentingly hostile to the forces of bad poetry. To like or dislike any poetry based on its perceived social affiliations--Gluck, Buk, or poetry slam muck--means you're more interested in flying it as your [whatever]ster flag rather than reading it.
posted by rodii at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2001


To like or dislike any poetry based on its perceived social affiliations--Gluck, Buk, or poetry slam muck--means you're more interested in flying it as your [whatever]ster flag rather than reading it.

I have to agree that shutting off a style or shake because of the kind of waves it makes is not the best kind of navigation for a lover (or scholar) of poetry. It's the best skiffing for a socialite. It's also safer for a social pirate to steer clear of raising flags that say, "I'm a pirate." A sea-brigand of this type is far more likely to raise a flag that says, for example, "I am a poet." There are hundreds of buk-heads looking for puke-literapunk status, but there are hundreds more who aren't. Someone has to support the stolen bukowski, when hull hits water. But the pirates in it for the "I stole this buk-book" will never go away. I'm biased against their social activities the way they are likely to be biased against my poetic activities. Nothing personal. My aesthetic choices are different. But there is a common ground where we can talk -

1: In what way is T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" composed differently from the mode of his contemporaries?

2: Well, first, what characteristics would include an individual in the group of "his contemporaries?"

1: Let's examine that. Would time be the only criterion for inclusion?

2: "Contemporary" has a lot of non-temporal connotations. Should a geographic proximity also be delineated as a criterion?

A lot of useful considerations pop out of this sort of questioning. Some tangible insight into the composition bubbles to the surface. Even the onionskin nature of the universe is represented through the continued dissection of a given question. We have flung socks at each other. What can be asked of "American Poetry?"
posted by spaceboy86 at 1:27 PM on October 8, 2001


To like or dislike any poetry based on its perceived social affiliations--Gluck, Buk, or poetry slam muck--means you're more interested in flying it as your [whatever]ster flag rather than reading it.

I have to agree that shutting off a style or shake because of the kind of waves it makes is not the best kind of navigation for a lover (or scholar) of poetry. It's the best skiffing for a socialite. It's also safer for a social pirate to steer clear of raising flags that say, "I'm a pirate." A sea-brigand of this type is far more likely to raise a flag that says, for example, "I am a poet." There are hundreds of buk-heads looking for puke-literapunk status, but there are hundreds more who aren't. Someone has to support the stolen bukowski, when hull hits water. But the pirates in it for the "I stole this buk-book" will never go away. I'm biased against their social activities the way they are likely to be biased against my poetic activities. Nothing personal. My aesthetic choices are different. But there is a common ground where we can talk -

1: In what way is T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" composed differently from the mode of his contemporaries?

2: Well, first, what characteristics would include an individual in the group of "his contemporaries?"

1: Let's examine that. Would time be the only criterion for inclusion?

2: "Contemporary" has a lot of non-temporal connotations. Should a geographic proximity also be delineated as a criterion?

A lot of useful considerations pop out of this sort of questioning. Some tangible insight into the composition bubbles to the surface. Even the onionskin nature of the universe is represented through the continued dissection of a given question. We have flung socks at each other. What can be asked of "American Poetry?"
posted by spaceboy86 at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2001


"Contemporary" has a lot of non-temporal connotations.

*blink* It does? News to me...
posted by kindall at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2001


"In what way is T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" composed differently from the mode of his contemporaries?" They did not have ezra pound as their poetic cheerleader (pimp if you will) Really, nice delineation but your criteria is based upon definitions of poetic forms within a movement or school. and this school could be ...popular for 100 years. Yeats was not that different from T.S. in dialect capturing and putting it back in that kinescope mind. But how he expanded that, thats what is interesting, making it contemporary.(for his time)
posted by newnameintown at 9:36 PM on October 8, 2001


They did not have ezra pound as their poetic cheerleader (pimp if you will)

Catty! Don't forget the auxiliary pimp squad of high school English teachers everywhere. A poem with footnotes! What could be better?

Still, "Prufrock" is a genuinely moving poem, and the ventriloquism in "The Waste Land" is a step beyond "Sordello" (but whose Sordello?). But the later Eliot, droning and pondering and grinding his vowelly abstractions together... it's like listening to the world's most literate cricket.
posted by rodii at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2001


rock drill etc.? hmmm. Rector gives his little bit in APR. something about eliot and the elite squad. wallace with his metapysical blue curtain skit. allude master walks through Hartford, selling future calamity protection....ahhh.
posted by newnameintown at 9:49 AM on October 11, 2001


Oh, I'm late to the party here but I've enjoyed the comments. I remember something from Samuel R. Delany's The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction--and he's a guy who reads poetry--where he explained that the reading audience for the Romantic poets was in the tens of thousands, so that you had Great poets in that period in a short list of 20 odd and a somewhat longer list of poets of worth. So, one person could know the canon by heart.

Whereas, now, you have millions of literate readers and thousands of poets, and no one person could ever encompass all that was provided. I gave up on ever keeping up with so many things when I read that.

Now my forte is mostly gone, past arts, of which there are more than enough to keep me occupied for the rest of my life if I did nothing but stop, look and listen, and read, from morning til night. So I have no fixed opinion, and certainly no informed opinion. And I'm too old to care about the what this or that elite thinks, I've seen too much of the lumber propping behind the stage sets already.

What rodii said resonates with me--bu then I like Bunting a lot. But then my vice is poetry in translation, so Bunting's Villon and his translation of the invocation of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of the Universe), and Natalie Duddington's translations of Anna Akmatova are among my favorites. Those are the only names I'll drop, but I have read some few things by some few of the many here mentioned.
posted by y2karl at 1:21 AM on January 30, 2002


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