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Pompeii and Circumstance

By Don Share

200px-Pompeii.jpg
OK, who saw the letter to the editor in the October issue of Harper’s about Charles Bernstein’s poem, “Pompeii?” And who gets to put the iron in irony?


Harper’s reader Richard Schlesinger, seeing the poem – which was first published in Poetry – objects:
“How mediocre does the prosaic imitator sound, when set beside his betters [...], how banal the ideas, the words, the very language the so-called Language Poets champion compared with the poetry being riffed on.”
Schlesinger compares Auden’s much loved poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” (“About suffering they were never wrong, / The Old Masters…”) with Bernstein’s, concluding that “Even the irony lacks iron.”
Bernstein’s published reply: “I [...] will try to do better next time.”
He says that “Pompeii” was actually stimulated by poet and New Criterion executive editor David Yezzi’s view of Bernstein’s book Girly Man, published in an exchange with Ange Mlinko in the May 2007 issue of (you guessed it) Poetry. Yezzi, Bernstein points out, “liked it about as well as Mr. Schlesinger likes my poem.” Indeed, Yezzi compared the book unfavorably with one by Morri Creech that he praised for being, as Frost put it, “content with the old-fashioned way to be new.” Yezzi produced as evidence a poem of Creech’s containing these lines: “So once a man lost sight, / near Pompeii, of history’s beginnings, / caught in some lavish now // of appetite…”
“Malcontent that I am,” Bernstein explains, “my ‘Pompeii’ has its satiric origin here.” So much for riffing on Auden!
And it’s L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, OK?

Comments (22)

  • On September 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm JDJ wrote:

    It’s a fascinating half-lie that Bernstein seems to tell in his reply to Schlesinger’ letter in Harper’s.
    Bernstein claims that his poem “Pompeii” does not react to (or attempt to satirize) W. H. Auden’s 1940 poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” but rather reacts to a poem by Morri Creech that references Pompeii (and an incident when one of Bernstein’s books was reviewed by David Yezzi).
    But if that is the case then why does Bernstein’s “Pompeii” quote from Auden’s “Musee…”? Why does Bernstein’s “Pompeii” depend in its rhetoric, structure and phrasing on Auden’s “Musee…”?
    If Bernstein’s “Pompeii” had anything to do with David Yezzi or Morri Creech then the influence is quite oblique, referenced more in the title of Bernstein’s poem than anything else.
    This problem of incoherence wouldn’t be an issue if Bernstein’s poem did not seem to be attempting a highly strategic and challenging form of coherence—and irony truly is just that. Irony depends on recognizing referents. It’s devastatingly social, whether it be dramatic, situational or simply verbal (a measure of word-play): The sources of the commentary, the critique, the reversal, or the mockery must be clear (must be coherent) for the witticism or the vicious exchange to be enlightening. Or, painfully, one can’t tell what the author is being ironic about like a Martian’s joke landing flat in an Earth-bound comedy club.
    But wait, there’s more…
    Doubtless, some readers will recognize Auden’s poem as one of the most famous examples of contemporary ekphrasis, being a commentary on a particularly winsome 1554 painting by Brueghel called “Landscape with Fall of Icarus.” Auden saw Bruegel’s painting in 1938 on a visit to the Musee des Beaux Arts, and his exacting observational and truth-telling powers produced a shit-you-not great poem.
    Bruegel’s painting is, in turn, a commentary on an old, old Greek myth about the limits of human invention, a myth that pits Daedulus’ skills in construction against the Minotaur and the majesty of the Gods; even Daedulus’ skills in making wings for himself and his son to escape imprisonment is no match for the Sun’s heat.
    And, doubtless again, some readers will realize how deeply important this same myth, this same furious mixture of the ordinary and extraordinary is to so many artists, from Joyce and beyond. Because art and poetry is not a luxury; subject truly is important; so is suffering; coherence too; and great work transcends too-easily bandied about schools and trends.
    So to traffic in such a thicket of reference about the limits and possibilities of art-making, one had better have one’s “stuff” together, one had better not covertly dismiss the value of writing both coherently, difficultly and complexly (because, for Christ’s sake, one can do all these things at the same time), and one had better take the work far more seriously than a Martian badump of a joke in a last line like “So poems such as this could be born”—but some people think that Bernstein’s strategy was winning or his poem would never have appeared twice in two famous magazines so what does this say about poetry publishing (what gets in and what’s left out)?
    The power of Auden’s ekphrasis is that it points out the vexed relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary when terrible suffering, real loss, real subject is depicted alongside the most pedestrian of activities in a commentary that resonates with me every time I see our media engage tragedy: we tune out even as we tune in.
    Schlesinger is right to register’s Bernstein’s failed irony; but Bernstein fails on an even deeper level: the work of ekphrasis implicated in his poem’s shadowy poetic genre is a failure too (for Bernstein’s poem, by his own admission, is a poem about a poem like Auden’s was a poem about a painting and Bruegel’s was a painting about a myth).
    And lastly, some readers may not have subscription to Harper’s to follow this minor tempest so here’s the document trail:
    Click here (after the colon) for Bernstein’s complete poem reprinted in Harper’s (scroll down): HERE.
    Click here (after the colon) for Auden’s complete “Musee des Beaux Arts”: HERE.
    Click here (after the colon) for Schlesinger’s letter from Harper’s: HERE.
    Click here (after the colon) for Bernstein’s reply from Harper’s: HERE.
    Click here (after the colon) for Bruegel’s painting “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”: HERE
    Her reference was feminist, but Audre Lorde might have been channeling W.H. Auden when she said, “poetry is not a luxury” (or at least it ought not to be; or at least it ought to be something far more urgent and coherent and complex and challenging and difficult than somebody’s joke or somebody’s trend, whomever they may be.

  • On September 21, 2008 at 7:14 am Don Share wrote:

    Thanks for all this, JDJ – let me add to the discussion a link to William Carlos Williams’ poem about the fall of Icarus, which seems to have fallen into the ocean while nobody was looking.

  • On September 21, 2008 at 1:40 pm Joseph Hutchison wrote:

    Thanks to JDJ for his stripping-the-onion post. And one note to Don: “L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E” is a cutesy attempt at a brand—on the order of VISA or SONY(all caps). Journalistic standards don’t required a writer to promote a brand, however—so “Language Poets” is not only acceptable but laudable (as “Visa” and “Sony” are in newspaper articles). Even Ron Silliman uses the term “language poetry”, so it’s silly to beat up Richard Schlesinger for not knuckling under to the corporate mentality that invented the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E brand.

  • On September 21, 2008 at 3:28 pm Don Share wrote:

    Joseph, malcontent that I am, I was being a little cute about the spelling of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. Not so cute as to have added a “TM” to it, however.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 6:52 am Daisy Fried wrote:

    Since Schlesinger got so apparently pissed off wouldn’t it be correct to say that Bernstein’s poem succeeded?
    What’s interesting to me with Bernstein is that while his tone of hokey sincerity is generally in the service of satire, he actually does get to me on the level of hokey sincerity. (Cf, his poem “Girly Man.”) If he didn’t get to the satire, I’d probably end up sneering at the hokeyness, but because he gets to the satire, the punchline, he actually makes sincerity and how it operates quite interesting.
    Daisy

  • On September 22, 2008 at 9:11 am Aaron Fagan wrote:

    That is a depressing amount of back story to justify a poem being successful or not. Don, were you and Chris reading this poem as a satire of a Morri Creech poem? Do you think the readers of POETRY read this as a satire of a Morri Creech poem? Charles Bernstein is a joke. I saw him read for POETRY and MCSweeney’s here in NY with John Ashbery and Lynn Emmanuel. Bernstein read last which was strange. He thought he was going to be late, but he wasn’t. And he took a very perverted delight in being the last to read. He even suggested what a delight it was to be reading not just with John Ashbery, but after him. The whole thing was a complete embarrassment. He didn’t even acknowledge that he was sharing the stage with Lynn Emmanuel. And then to watch the 80 year-old John Ashbery navigate the steep stairs at Mo’ Pitkins just finalized a kind of F*** you to him.
    At the PennSound Web site they have the reading up there at the John Ashbery section like this:
    Mo Pitkin’s, New York
    June 6, 2007
    Reading with Charles Bernstein
    Sponsored by Poetry magazine & McSweeney’s “Chain” issue
    Note: Lynn Emmanuel read first at this event but her
    reading was not on the CD provided to PennSound.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 10:09 am JDJ wrote:

    DF: I think I understand where you are coming from. I hope you won’t mind me saying this but you truly know how to write poems with ironic wit and highly exacting tonal shifts. Your poems in My Brother is Getting Arrested Again and your earlier collection brutally satirize, as well as depict and comment on a host of domestic and urban conflicts. Because you have a vital, relevant and coherent subject, the targets of your situational ironies hit bulls-eye.
    But, in the case of Bernstein’s “Pompeii,” the satire is not nearly as successful as either your invention or Bernstein’s other work and I think its okay to critique poems that are continually reprinted.
    Let me ask some specific questions about the poem. Often I feel like we always speak so generally about poems; if they matter then lets go deeper into the texts and inquire after their invention. So here are my questions–pretty fair ones, actually:
    - You say “but because he gets to the satire, the punchline, he actually makes sincerity and how it operates quite interesting”. But what was the joke that preceded the punchline in “Pompeii”? What is being “set-up” that closes with a punchline?
    - If Bernstein is, as you say, being satirical and adopting a “tone of hokey sincerity,” then what is he being hokily sincere about and what is he satirizing? Tone is the how of a what–what I say is governed by how I say it (or tone). So what is the subject (the ‘what’) in Bernstein’s “Pompeii”?
    - What does the “rich man” in Bernstein’s poem refer to or mean? Why a reference to the rich man?
    - Does the rich man have anything to do with Auden’s poem and Bruegel’s painting (because the words and phrasing appropriates that earlier poem)?
    I’d share your interest if either the subject, the tone, or the satire in the “Pompeii” was coherent? Yet, in this case, the poem’s punchline falls flat because the joke has not been developed.
    More questions:
    - Is it too much to ask a poet to develop his or her poems, to not only traffic in punchlines but to engage subject far more substantively so that the tone and the punchline rises to a coherent, effective level beyond mere gimmick?
    - Is Bernstein just mocking Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts” or Creech’s poem, and if so then is he is just another bully bellowing emptily against a wholly imagined foe?
    You see, if the poem wasn’t trying to be coherent and satirical then these queries about substance and coherency and the actual work of irony and subversion and satire wouldn’t matter. But Bernstein’s poem “Pompeii” is actually trying to be coherent and satirical and trying to adopt a specific tone. As Bernstein noted in his reply to Schlesinger’s letter, Bernstein is actually referring to another poem in his efforts within “Pompeii”..but why? What’s he going after?
    Schlesinger’s critique was apt because the poem seems to fake its satire without coherent substance; that’s why the title of Schlesinger’s letter-to-the-editor was “Musee dex Faux Arts.” Is Bernstein trying to make a comment that art is just fakery, or a rich man’s whimsy, or not a rich man’s whimsy; or is he lobbing a kind of bitter, under-handed critique by saying that this fakery, this jive talk is actually where poems like his are born? If its so fake, if the vision of art-making is so bleak then why do it? Why waste precious space in Poetry Magazine and Harper’s (because the poem was reprinted twice as so many poems are) where other not-at-all fake poems could appear?
    Not all of Bernstein’s poems are problematic like this. I pulled Girly Man off my shelf and, boy does the satire work here. I have taught twentieth theatrical traditions and spent a great deal of time analyzing the richness of Jewish American comedic satire with my students.
    So when I hear Bernstein’s invention in Girly Man I hear a tremendously effective expansion of a host of Jewish American satirical tropes, including hokey sincerity masking as devastating, multi-focused, entangled (with conflicting referents) critique of stereotypical men’s talk.
    The satirical writing in Bernstein’s Girly Man works in this collection because the contingencies (meaning, that to which the poems refer) is developed. (And “contingent” is a word often used in theoretical discussions and blurbs about Bernstein’s invention.
    I wish someone would do a study of Bernstein’s re-imainging, expansion and critique of Jewish American social satire; for me this element of his work is an active fashioning and not just an inactive cultural leitmotif.
    The poems in Girly Man are difficult and effective because they are developed. To me, rather than language poetry, the invention owes its operations far more to the traditionally categorized “high modernist” pastiches of postwar poetry than the cool writing of language poetry (which, in its stereotype, eschews storytelling, narrative pastiche, high allusions, lyric voice containing tonal shifts and all those things that some people say are old fashioned and redolent of “quietude”).
    If they matter, we should not be afraid to call out the insincerity and under-development of a particular poem, especially if it keeps appearing in jackpot publications.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 11:10 am Don Share wrote:

    Aaron, it’s more frontstory than back, given the responses elicted by the poem. “Pompeii” is in dialogue with other poems, other things; I read (past tense) it, since you’ve asked, as what B. says it is: a poem with satiric origins in another poem that received great praise from a critic. Daisy’s comment above addresses the question of whether the thing is successful or not on its own terms. That said, JDJ is asking lots of good (complicated, useful) questions, and asking questions doesn’t seem depressing to me at all. Let’s hear more about whether poems should not be published if they’re not “sincere,” for instance. I’d cavil, though, that I doubt Bernstein feels he’s hit the “jackpot” by having a poem in Poetry or Harper’s.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 11:35 am Henry Gould wrote:

    JDJ, there may be more substance to the Bernstein poem than you allow. Let’s examine it.
    The parody is of an Auden poem which itself addresses many things at once : the presumption of Icarus, the indifference to suffering of the “expensive delicate ship”. It’s that indifference to suffering that Bernstein focuses on in his poem. The “rich man” knows about the unaccountable suffering caused by natural forces. Pompeii, historically, was a kind of resort town for the Roman aristocracy : its sudden destruction has often stood as a symbol of the precarious, fleeting quality of worldly luxury. The “rich man” fears the force of nature, but as the poem continues, he rationalizes greed and wealth also as ineluctable forces of nature : “the price of progress” etc., which those who “lack” wealth are “too ignorant to understand”. Here the rich man shows his complacency, snobbery and indifference. The paradigmatic allusion, of course, is to the Gospel parable of “the rich man Lazarus” : Lazarus, in Hell for his greed and mistreatment of his servants and the poor, begs Abraham up in Heaven for a drop of water – and if Abraham won’t do it, Lazarus begs him simply to “send his servant” with it (revealing in this comment that Lazarus’ basic attitude toward the less fortunate has not changed). Abraham refuses. Lazarus has been permanently damned for his lack of charity. Bernstein playfully carries on “the rich man” speaker’s voice and deluded attitude through the last line of the poem : the poem itself is also just another product of “natural” forces.
    My guess is that Bernstein in this parody is sending an oblique jab not only at David Yezzi but at the New Criterion itself, which is notable for its conservative stance – favoring high culture, traditional poetics, and generally “right wing” politics – which Bernstein is mocking as, in his veiw, basically rooted in snobbery and indifference toward supposed social inferiors – “the expensive delicate ship” itself, or Pompeii before the crash.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 11:42 am JDJ wrote:

    Don: Thank you. A gentle reply here:
    I did not mean or say “hitting the jackpot,” or refer to Bernstein as do so; rather I said “jackpot magazines,” as in old, well-funded magazines that are, like as not, arbitrators of taste in their own spheres and for whom it is sometimes (not all the times) a great thing to feature the work either celebrated or highly contested poets during our time.
    I didn’t at all mean to imply that an extremely established poet like Bernstein would feel that he’s hit anyone’s jackpot. Perhaps some young cats reading this blog may not know that the website that Aaron Fagan referred to (PennSound) where Bernstein reads his poem after John Ashberry was, actually, co-founded by Bernstein himself. And in that sound recording Bernstein actually honors Ashberry when he says that Ashberry’s books are beautifully “odd.” Moreover, the reading that Aaron pointed to was co-sponsored by Poetry and included Bernstein reading poems that appeared in Poetry magazine.
    It is, rather, a kind of jackpot when Poetry has any poet with a following appear in its pages. The sheer diversity of the poets that appear in its pages brings a wealth of divergent audiences to the magazine. Christian Wiman and now your own leadership have actually broadened and deepened this aesthetic diversity to the point where, by golly, I can argue about a Bernstein poem.
    And, if it’s important for great editors like you and Christian Wiman to select work worthy of discussion and debate, then it is equally as important for readers like me to debate the work on its merits.
    So who cares if Bernstein’s poem is “sincere”? That was hardly my point. Sincerity is an emotional experience gauged best in the cauldron of face-to-face social interactions.
    I was talking about the poem’s aesthetic work and whether its attempted irony is backed by a substantive engagement and an adequate formal/thematic development of the wealth of material to which it refers.
    I do feel that the older, more established, better-funded magazines like the New Yorker, Poetry, and others can stand criticism about their choices. It’s part of the grace of being receptive to readers (BUT NOT to the extent that you change anything; keep on doing what is done well even as on is open to feedback from ordinary readers).
    There is nothing fair about publishing; it is, by nature, discriminatory. In fact, I haven’t for a moment believed that anything in life and in art-making is fair. Don’t think for a moment that I am looking for sincerity or some imagined fairness in that sense.
    Rather, I am concerned about the artistry of the poem and art for me is a fashioning, a construction, that has less to do with reality and sincerity and more to do with calculation, development, intention, perception/deception, and design.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 11:47 am Don Share wrote:

    Extremely well-said, JDJ – and I’m grateful for your saying it. I stand gently corrected, as well!

  • On September 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    p.s. Auden’s poem begins like this :
    About suffering they were never wrong,
    The Old Masters
    In a nutshell, Bernstein is implying that “the rich man” is ALWAYS wrong about suffering. He is at the same time implying that the New Criterion crowd, despite their high esteem for Tradition, are not Old Masters : they are simply Rich Men.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 12:01 pm Daisy Fried wrote:

    JDJ–You are being incredibly kind to my poems, and I thank you!
    I agree that it’s fine to call out poems. And you’re being quite interesting about Bernstein, etc. I’m typing fast so this is going to be only semi-if-at-all-coherent, which is no excuse, but I think Bernstein is a) using a sincere tone to express a number of things, perhaps contradictory, about rich men’s understanding of suffering, b) using a sincere tone to make fun of the kind of poems that mourn the destruction of the polar caps from the comfort of a centrally air-conditioned room, which ah-alas other people’s suffering, again from a position of comfort and privilege. Or so I understood the poem before I read the backstory.
    I think there are great poems that do essentially that–that ah-alas-ing–but there are so many others that do it in a way that’s repellant. So I appreciate CB’s attack on that level.
    Maybe “sincere” isn’t quite the right word here, because you’re right, this isn’t the same tone as the more complicated “Girly Man”–but the utilitarian, efficient flatness of the poem, with its flickers of sarcasm on the way to the punchline, are interesting to me. For example with his straight-faced use of the old-fashioned word “fishmonger”–with its connotations of little Mediterranean men haggling over the day’s catch, or something, when most of us get our fish at the supermarket counter staffed by hourly-wage workers–CB comes dangerously close to using the word sincerely in the service of satirizing the kind of poetry which uses such archaisms unironically.
    This is an attack poem–maybe a one-off cheapshot–but I think there’s room for that in poetry. I mean, I like cheap shots and jeers, I think they’re important, politically important, important about human nature, and in this case, at least a little interesting in its formal elements. I didn’t know the backstory when I read it in Poetry; it doesn’t seem very nice to pick on Morri Creech (whose poetry I don’t know) in Harper’s–I mean satire should kick up, not down, and I don’t see what MC has done except write poems that got favorably reviewed by someone hostile to CB–but hopefully CB’s attack will get MC more readers.
    But until CB explained, wouldn’t his readers simply have figured that he was picking on a particular kind of poetry? I think any kind of poetry (including Language poetry, with or without its equals signs) is fair game.
    Daisy

  • On September 22, 2008 at 12:07 pm JDJ wrote:

    At the risk of writing too much (I beg everyone’s forgiveness), please allow me to respond to Henry Gould’s great close reading of Bernstein’s poem “Pompeii.” I’ll keep it short.
    I can see where you are coming from, Henry, especially your cogent observation that Bernstein may be satirizing the possible social conservatism of the New Criterion and/or Creech.
    But, alas, the poem itself (meaning what is actually on the page and not just inferred) is not doing the work that you say it is doing, Henry. In fact, if Bernstein hadn’t told us in his letter to Harper’s that the poem was rooted within or reacting to either Creech’s poem and/or the New Criterion than no reasonable reader would ever know that the poem engages those references.
    The poem seems most to be about Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts” and it includes no hints that I can discern (please prove me wrong because God knows I change when corrected) of referring to Creech or the New Criterion EXCEPT for an oblique nod in the title (“Pompeii”).
    That’s why I say that the poem is under-developed. I think it hopes to be doing what you incisively say, Henry, but its design obscures that work.
    Henry, I pray that one day we may be able to meet before we both get too old because I feel aligned with the way that you think and write even when I disagree.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 12:21 pm Ange Mlinko wrote:

    Daisy says: “I didn’t know the backstory when I read it in Poetry; it doesn’t seem very nice to pick on Morri Creech (whose poetry I don’t know) in Harper’s–I mean satire should kick up, not down…But until CB explained, wouldn’t his readers simply have figured that he was picking on a particular kind of poetry?”
    When I first read Bernstein’s poem in Poetry I knew exactly where it was coming from, for I had written in my exchange with Yezzi:
    “I think I will go mad if I have to read one more poem about
    Pompeii. Intellectualizing suffering is bad enough, but moralizing on
    a natural disaster from centuries ago is just a way to score “big subject”
    points while politely sidestepping the big doo-doo we’re leaving all
    over the globe.”
    I’d rather be quoted on what I loved than what I reviled. But like Daisy I wonder why Creech got dragged out for a new drubbing. I had made the point about this Pompeiious genre right in the review.
    (And on every other count I agree with Daisy too.)

  • On September 22, 2008 at 12:21 pm JDJ wrote:

    DF: This is exciting and I’m moved to weigh in briefly once more and then get back to grading papers. I just reread Bernstein’s “Pompeii” after your close reading and I really get what you are saying (especially on the heels of Henry’s analysis), and especially in your citing of Bernstein’s diction in the poem–the ay he leans in on that word and image of “fishmonger”…It’s such a damn, damn important theme, by God! It’s major stuff. That’s why Bernstein’s poem stuck in my head when I first read it in Poetry. Like the Pompeii of its title, this is the theme that builds up and tears civilizations down…Because I too share the speaker’s social critique in “Pompeii” about the limits of suffering, about the patrician remove of the masters and the media who sees suffering right along side other pedestrian stuff and says “who cares; let’s bail out the rich!” (I had to get that in there; we’re in a crash, after all, yet the masters act like it ain’t happenin’). & that’s why I was moved to speak out about the poem’s failure because the rush to the punchline and the under-development of the ideas (and the possible mean-spirited dig of Auden and Creech when, actually, Auden was noting the vicious wit posed in Bruegel’s depiction of suffering)–all these lapses made me think that Bernstein glossed over ideas that deserved a far more brutal and thorough thrashing–and, having read Bernstein since ’91, I know he has done such thrashing before.

  • On September 22, 2008 at 1:31 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    JDJ, I see what you’re saying (& thank you for kind comments – I hope we do meet before I turn 93 next year) – & I’m surprised to be defending Chas. Bernstein, having had a few run-ins with him mytself -
    but it seems to me that “Pompeii” works as a kind of “widerruf” (Yiddish, I think, for a corrective satire) on the Auden poem, whether or not you know the “backstory”. I like the way he uses the ineluctable force of both natural and social indifference (which the Old Masters illustrated and Auden adumbrated) to criticize – and satirize – “laissez-faire” economic fatalism (which justifies inequality and suffering as the working-out of “natural” distinctions and destinies). The backstory – Yezzi, Creech, the New Criterion, etc . – is, you might say, merely the “occasion” for this general critique of social uncharitableness.
    Of course the edge of Bernstein’s irony is blunted somewhat by the rather uncharitable – dare I say, spiteful – polemic underlying its composition, which somewhat contradicts its own argument (the implied demand for charity). Satire has a way of being Pyrrhic & self-defeating in this way : very rarely escapes its own traps.

  • On September 23, 2008 at 4:50 pm Brent Cunningham wrote:

    JDJ writes: “…one had better…one had better not…one had better…”
    I wonder if it’s possible to productively question the habit, rather pronounced sometimes in these comment boxes, of setting up imperious do’s and dont’s for worthwhile poetic approaches. It doesn’t take a sociologist to see the social dynamic it supports and maybe even produces: I can picture a hundred poet-lemmings rushing to write poetry in a way that violates JDJ’s better-nots. And more power to ‘em, I say. Poet-lemmings ho!
    Really this whole teapest in a tempot grows from Schlesinger’s inability to imagine that a poem might not want to have the same aesthetic or even realpolitikal values as an Auden poem, compounded by likeminded assumptions ’round about poetryland. But in fact the strictures, not the poem, are what’re “unsuccessful.”
    In that context, it’s sure nice to hear Daisy reminding people that there can be value to poems that aren’t aiming to be Audenesque anthology pieces. Do people really want a radio station that only plays Mozart? Dentist offices ho!
    Meanwhile, fun to watch Gould close-read a C. Bernstein poem…Henry? You ok?

  • On September 24, 2008 at 4:03 pm Don Share wrote:

    Speaking of Pompeii… click here!

  • On September 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Thank you, Brent, for your considerate query regarding my welfare. I am, presently, in my Study, perusing a quaint and curious volume of forgotten, of very forgotten lore, and aside from the fine ash of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which has begun to sift down (with a malevolent hissing sound) from nearby Mt. Etnough, and which happens to be coagulating, gradually but inexorably, around my limbs & nether parts at this very moment, making it quite difficult for me to digitally process these wor d s, I am j ju s t fi i

  • On September 25, 2008 at 9:19 am Don Share wrote:

    Poor Henry. He was a fine fellow. I hope he didn’t suffer terribly!
    (Was it Mt. Etna or Mt. Enough that erupted? Or perhaps Mt. Et Enough…)

  • On September 25, 2008 at 12:18 pm Aaron Fagan wrote:

    Wasn’t it Mt. Vous Serious?


Posted in Uncategorized on Saturday, September 20th, 2008 by Don Share.