Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Convex mirrors, and so on... and on... (revised)

I feel the way John Latta does in his posts about the handy new packaging of John Ashbery in the new Library of America Collected Poems 1956-1987 . I also agree with him about the LOA series itself, and the smaller American Poets Project - speaking of which: I like Charles Bernstein's lovely distillation, but can it really be that Zukofsky's "A" is out of print? Used copies are pricey. Anyway, Ashbery's living it up as a collage artist now, though I'm more partial to David Shapiro's!

Meanwhile, why are there so many links to that oddly condescending Mesmer piece in the Brooklyn Rail? Oh well, here's yet another link to it; see what you think. Only in America! (only in New York?) would you get that raisin bagel shtick. Anyhow, I'm not much on theory post-Empson myself (and he wasn't really a theorist, was he? ... nor that hybrid horror, the "poet-critic," but rather the far rarer and more desirable two-headed beast: a poet and a critic) ... and I'm sure she's right to question the "fetishization of debate," though about the worst thing you can say about theorists in the poetry world is that some of them are social climbers who disguise themselves as thinkers.

Yet it doesn't follow from any of this pother that "the consequence of innovation is that innovative poetry remains mired in debate about debate." There's no reason in the world to imagine that theorizing and debate - they are not the same thing - somehow preclude poetry, or to feel that such things are contaminating: theory's not a contagious disease, after all, or we'd all have it by now! Why confuse poetics with poetry? And why start off, I can't resist asking, by slapping Poetry (of all places) around? Usually the magazine gets accused of somehow quaintly ignoring theory and, presumably by logical extension, poems by theorists. And referring to it as a magazine "run by pharmaceutical industry businessmen" - well, that's just ridiculous. If one ignores the coercive rhetoric here, the underlying point is probably that somehow poetry (let alone Poetry) is supposed to confront capital, and eschew the coercive language-games of capital, etc. etc. But I don't see how people with teaching jobs and publishers, writing gigs for newspapers (which exist to carry advertising) - or folks with enough money in their wallets to buy computers and/or iPhones from which to blog and opine - see themselves as accomplishing this, or standing for it either in principle or in reality. Well, that's life in the post-factual world.

Speaking of millionaires, remember my "Is Bob Dylan a Poet?" post? Well, guess what - he's got two poems in The New Yorker! Here's one... and here's the other. Eat your hearts out, and, as M.R. sez (to whom thanx for the linx), "Don't tell Bill."

Finally... a bit of tater tot synchronicity: in my Harriet remembrance of Reginald Shepherd I recalled my chat with him about those little devils - and now I see that they turn up in Ron Silliman's the Alphabet, as well. It's a small poetry world after all!


Michael Robbins said...

What doesn't turn up in The Alphabet?

(that's a rhetorical question.)

mgushuedc said...

The alphabet? It's the book of everything! (Some assembly required)

I stole that.

I cannot get [one of] my daughter[s] to listen to Dylan. She cannot forgive him for kicking Phil Ochs out of that limo along with the "You're not a songwriter, you're a journalist" line. Suggestions are welcome.

so thanks for this good, sane post. I'm beginning to think Dean Young has the right idea about whatever this shebang is: wake me when it's over.

Don Share said...

Thanks, Michael. You know, I'm kinda with your daughter[s] on this one: I worship Phil Ochs and wish he was here, now that we need him again (possibly more than ever). I just listened to a lot of his stuff again & tears came to my already bleary eyes! O well, as Dylan sang ever so recently, "Things Have Changed." Maybe your kidonistas would enjoy that one, come to think of it.

I dunno: what if it isn't over till... it's over?

Yrs. gratefully as ever, - Don

Matt said...


Matt said...

"And refering to it as a magazine 'run by pharmaceutical industry businessmen' - well, that's pretty ridiculous."

Uh, do you think maybe she was exaggerating for humorous effect?

Don Share said...

Why, yes I do. Ridiculous.

M.R. said...

Not that I mind, but why am I become "M.R."? To preserve my cautious avoidance of controversy?

Don Share said...'s the woR.d.

the unreliable narrator said...

Raisin bagels and tater tots: so much for the low-carb late-capitalist diet.

But haven't we all come down with a bad case of theory?

I'll never get over losing Phil.

PS--in my vapid teens I finally assembled Dylan for myself via "Series of Dreams"--worth a shot.