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On the Pleasure of Hating

By Travis Nichols

Over at MAYDAY Magazine, there’s a contemporary criticism roundtable spun-off from Jason Guriel’s “Going Negative” (and tweaked a bit by Matthew Zapruder’s “Show Your Work!”).

The back and forth begins with Kent Johnson, who states in a letter to the editors of Poetry “. . . so here’s a vote for Guriel’s call that the ‘negative’ spirit continue– only that it continue with a much more forceful satiric push. There’s never been a great age of poetry, after all, where poets weren’t taunting and lampooning one another…”

Johnson calls for, among other things, a return to the anonymous, unsigned review in order to sidestep the sticky wicket of toadyism.

An interesting proposal that inspires a raft of responses from some critical bigwigs including:

* Robert Archambeau (“ I’m with Johnson on all of this, but I think he goes awry in the particular solution he proposes to the problem . . . “)

*Stephen Burt (“it’s not worth writing a negative review of a book that will sink without a trace, which most poetry books do”)

*Annie Finch (“At the moment, female reviewers are most confident and successful when they play according to the rules that have been established by centuries of male tradition.”)

*Daisy Fried (“Even a negative review is better than damning with inept praise.”)

*Johannes Göransson (“It does indeed seem like one of the central editorial goals of post-Lilly Poetry magazine has been to stir up quarrels with negative reviews or straight-out quarrel baiting . . . “)

*Eric Lorberer (“The obsequious, back-scratching, and self-serving tenor of too many approving reviews is certainly worthy of scrutiny and complaint, but it’s puerile and simplistic to think that one’s only recourse is to be scathing, satirical, or dismissive.”)

* Ange Mlinko (“As poets, we’ve set up the whole shebang to be either/or, black-or-white, love-it-or-leave-it by emphasizing “very interesting language”—poetry dialect.”)

*Michael Robbins (“Franz Wright’s unbalanced menacing of Logan notwithstanding, poetry reviewing is a fairly blithe business.”)

*Rodrigo Toscano (“. . . the blurb can also be a place for new vistas—in the midst of the Blurbosphere itself.”)

And much much more!

Well, much much more except comments.  And so I offer up the space below for commentary on the commentary on the commentary (on the commentary?).

Comments (110)

  • On May 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm Catherine Halley wrote:

    Hi Travis-
    Thanks for posting this. One of the responses that you don’t quote, but which I liked very much was from Maureen McLane who says,

    “Let’s acknowledge too that there’s no monolith “criticism.” We need both descriptive and evaluative criticism….Poetry criticism can similarly bring the news from Poetry Land to those who will never buy and rarely read a book of new poems; there’s an important place for essays which chart the terrain, inform an otherwise uninterested readership about the ranges of poetries being written, published, translated, and not-yet-written in/into English.

    I guess I’m sympathetic to this position because it’s just this sort of “criticism” or prose about poetry for a general reader that I want the features on the poetryfoundation.org to be.

    Cathy

    • On May 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

      Thanks for posting this, Travis. Each of the 32 responses is excellent and contains (whether agreeing with my take or not!) insights of value. The responses *as a group*, no question, constitute a valuable document on a topic that is very much in the air right now. I hope it all carries over into further discussion on reviewing practices in our field. The Mayday editors deserve a lot of credit for organizing the forum (there’s lots of great material at the issue– David Baptiste Chirot’s idiosyncratic interview is a must-see).

      I’ll take the opportunity to say thanks to Jason Guriel for inadvertently prompting the idea. And to say, too, that I’m glad Catherine pointed to Maureen McClane, who is fabulous, one of the very finest critics in poetry right now…

      Kent

      • On May 6, 2009 at 6:51 pm Jason Guriel wrote:

        Thanks, Kent. It’s a good discussion, over at Mayday, so people should check it out.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    One thing that may be limiting comments on MAYDAY is the format. I notice that each response must be opened as a separate file. I tend to print things out to read at my leisure (it’s also a little easier on old eyes). It’s a lot of work to open, copy, paste, return, open, copy, paste, return, etc., etc. 20 or more comments.
    Just a thought.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm david baptiste chirot wrote:

    i’m working on a response to the original piece in MAYDAY; in brief, most of the issues raised and many of the “solutions” were being dealt with in the 1840′s by Edgar A Poe–

    The biggest problem in a sense is that most writing by poets in terms of reviews etc–is focused on very narrow areas of poetry, without any historical or wider (national, global, etc) contexts considered than those immediately surrounding the book in question.

    I think there is perhaps also a fear that anyone who begins to consider these works, these small areas of poetry from “outside their purview”–might find them far less interesting and momentous than if considered only by those on the inside.

    The Institutionalized aspect is also overlooked: that is, that despite the cries of marginality of various poetries, they gain a relatively widespread dissemination via networks which are supported by institutions, foundations, corporations and the like.

    Recently there was the flarf/conceptual poetry event in NYC in a major setting of the supposedly disdained inner circles of the Mainstream/Elite art worlds.

    There is desperation in this—poets want to be treated like rock and roll musicians or TV actors thus there is a certain drive towards “dumbing down” various aspects of “poetics” while at the same time asserting one is doing something “avant”.

    –the fear of being a “dying breed”–requires ever more reproduction and rebranded production–

    hence one is encouraged to be a “non author” figure –unoriginal—-while at the same time maintaining a provable identity–

    It is the desire to have one’s cake and eat it, too.

    Rather than opening possibilities of writing and reading and thinking re poetry and the arts, the opposite is occurring, there is a tendency towards conformity and “playing it safe.” The artist/poet limits them self due to thinking far more about what people will think of THEM than what is really at hand which is making a poem an art work etc.

    Sometimes in looking at anthologies or galleries on line–realize my Visual Poetry, ideas in fictions and essays–are quite different from the over all mass of things i find gathered in such places (galleries, anthologies)

    It is not that one sets out to be “different,” “original”–or “innovative” and al the rest. It is that one is more interested in finding which ways the work takes one than in seeking the approval of so and so or such and such a “crowd.” One is hungry for something that one doesn’t yet really know what it is—and so has to find it someplace—and begin from there- as one can’t find in it what is purported to be the area which “supplies and satisfies the consumer.”

    It is also in part that simply one didn’t pay any attention to all the slogans fads and revivals of past avant gardes, what Hans Richter called the “Garden Dwarf” versions of “neo-Dada” im the early 1960′s. i think the Garden Dwarf versions of things have continued to become more minuscule and derivative and perhaps now are like the choices for “pixilated” “screen images” on one’s computer. A certain aspect of the generic begins to install itself, and in order for those coming to resemble each other so much in thoughts and forms and reactions, responses, like good Pavlovians, to appear a bit “individual” or “unique” (rather than “eunuch” ) there is always the introduction of something like allegiance to a slightly different form of door knocker or window shades on the poet’s box house, the a usage of a new form of emoticon or the adaption of a particular form of “persona” to give some “flair” to the otherwise unremarkable work in the long assembly line issuing from the poetry factories.

    The real catastrophe is the persons become less like persons and more like drones. Poet-drones at once lethal in intent like unmanned drones as well as deadly monotonous as in “droning on.”

    In Foucault’s theories of studying the discourses which create the formation of new Institutions (the hospital, the prison, the asylum, etc–), the philosopher noted that one does not study the “great ” figures of an epoch, the real “innovators” of the individual kind, but rather that large horizontally distributed series of interrelated groupings which constitute the mediocrities of the time period, the second and third rate entities who labor away in the production of discourses as they expand and become the structures which lead to the full blown construction of Institutions in which what is important is that those who are “created” and those who “work there”–vanish.

    The transferal of the “faceless mass” to the formation of gigantic Institutions ensures the continual production and reproduction of further discourses created by the mediocrities, the middle range persons involved in the specific disciplines.

    In poetry is this not true today? The various groups which began in the late 1970′s and have continued to this day manufacturing here a slight variation there a post avant and everywhere a “product,” a “line” known as “avant poetry” or rebranded as “post language” flarf conceptual etc–which are the furtherance of the various –infra-discourses within the over all already existing distribution and functioings of the discourse, in which the mediocrities can find new niches to flourish in and continue the business of the reproduction and the rebranded production of the overall discourse known as “poetry.”

    The important thing is that like an organism, the discipline continues to produce rebrand versions of the same and reproduce those distinguishing aspects which are preserved and modified here and “torqued” there, so that one may differentiate a bit among the children of the ongoing family-species of “poets.”

    What advocates of the “non author’ and heteronyms pseudonyms unsignedness and their contradictory simultaneous productions of self promotions, self advertisements neglect to observe–what they do not realize is that they themselves ALREADY EXIST AS SUCH.

    That is–the entity “Poetry, Poetics” that at one point was defined as something new and At the same generic and able to be assimilated into the discourses of the construction of Institutions, this entity known as “poetry, poetics” has been constructing on its own these beings as its own heteronyms, pseudonyms, unsigned ones: that is, when the overall discourse is so much the product of a large horizontal affiliation, then of course the authors do “cease to exist” and are replaced by heteronyms pseudonyms non signing ones, who are simply persons who think they are so and so but are merely the ongoing functionalities of an entity which has been turned into Institution.

    That is, the “author” who is “not an author” “unoriginal” is actually the creation of Poetry itself, of the Institution of Poetry as it reproduces and rebrands its productions–so that in Truth there is “nothing personal” nor anything “original” going on, an actuality that is unnoticed by the poets who assert the need for such things to “rejuvenate Poetry”

    Seen in this light, what is “plain to see” is that this the tending towards a steady state of the second law of thermodynamics is the inertia of the entropic arrival at the “near final stages of activity” before reaching the smooth plateau of equilibrium in Deleuzian terms.

    An aspect of this smoothness is that the War Machines, the Machines of the State, function better than ever.

    The energies of avarice lead to the colonization of as many forms of discourse as possible; to be included in what is subsumed and consumed under the rubric of the Institution called Poetry.

    Wood shedding–Jazz musicians use this term for the long period of withdrawal from the “Scene” in order to practice and discipline oneself so that it is possible to hear beyond the discourses of the moment–

    One if possible needs to go to a degree zero of poetry, art and confront what is there–the basic elements–the empty spaces–silence, chaos–Big Bangs–radio static of the stars-countless entities, particles teeming right now in the air and what is seen right around one within the length to which one’s arms may reach.

    It isn’t simply a matter of changing the forms or “manners” of reviewing poetry, it is a matter of changing poetry itself and of poetry changing oneself. “I is an Other”–

    is this Other–does it even have to have a name-a signature–or, like the Tao–cannot be named– is the Other ever unknown or at some point simply found “hidden in plain sight”– “the only way to know is to find out for oneself.(an Other/unknown—finding its way along the Unknown accompanied by the Other, this Other also unknown–)

    Necessity is the Motherfucker of Invention–fortunately for myself many years without the email many without a personal phone, or a fixed address at times. Nothing like the at first seeming “nothingness” to jolt one into finding the “everythingness” ever about one. To see and hear and live among what is there before and around one at any given moment and know that is all that one has to work, with and that itself only with a crayon or pen and paper–one begins to find the lines in a hand the lines in sidewalk cracks lines in ones head of an overheard distant song coming from a passing car–and sometimes, not even allowed to have or be able to have paper and crayon–to work with the art of looking, art of listening–things which exist without being “set down” or “turned into an object–

    to realize that “this is it,”–”all of it” and to set to work with these elements–

    The accord and applause given to the familiar and already known–is the fear of the unknown–

    To find the unknown–is there a fear then that one would then be an “unknown” poet, artist?

    Necessity, motherfucker of invention, presents an unknown into which a person goes, becoming unknown, in the unknown. I is an Other—unknown to an unknown among and in the unknown– and so is to be doubly and doubly doubly algebraically unknown–

    To confront the paradox that “if it is not in writing, it never happened” and “The Real War will Never Get into the Books.”

    is wood shedding–far from the maddening crowd”–is where the action, the thinking, the discipline, the writing and non writing is–

    might that not be possible also to bring as a “reviewer”–

    and why a Poet might not be able to arrive at indeed being a “good reviewer, a real reviewer”–”judicious” as Barry Schwab sky puts it, or –abandoning al the jargon as Murat Nemet-Nejat urges—

    To create an atmosphere of various forms of ludic play and theatricality of performance as various” fictional” characters in a drama of the conflicts and engagements of the areas known as the Institutions of Poetry—as Kent Johnson proposes–

    Then, why not?–join the Red Queen in believing as many five impossible things before breakfast—-an “unknown” would and could really exist which might not only write unknown works but create unknown reviews of known books
    which are known by reason of belonging to an Institutionally reproduced and rebrandingly produced system which is organized to solely “recognize and applaud its own kind”–”for the furtherance of the species to which it belongs”–

    Yes–why not–
    from the point of view of an unknown–find out how this known quantity constructed by a system which is the one that certifies that it is indeed a known and recognized example of the species–find out this known quantity exists, functions, “appears” “is heard” within the unknown—that is, within an area which the known has done its best to evade–
    then might not one find also a means of “reviewing” the very Institutions which have constructed this discourse, these products and rebranded reproductions–
    questioning these–through ever widening areas, through rhizomatic labyrinthine passage ways–and so “unearthing” the supposed “American tree” in terms of a “verticality” of heirarchicalization–a denomination of the position of subjects –in order to continue its reproduction–its rebranded productions–toppling it as the Communards did the Vendome Column–

    to create indeed-=-a “wider more open panoramic view of the entire surrounding city and country sides”–to “let in fresh air”–to see the unknown–unnamed–outside of the Institutionalized Poetic Walls–an Otherness hidden in plain sight-

    • On May 6, 2009 at 5:46 pm Michael wrote:

      A bit hard to follow your twisty train of thought for all 2,000 words, David (speaking of poets becoming “drones” and “droning on”!)

      but, could you elaborate on how the flarf and conceptual poets, who you can see read at the Whitney here:

      http://www.youtube.com/nadagordon

      are exhibiting “desperation” by showing up and giving (rather stellar) readings, when they had been asked to do just that?

      Isn’t desperation — especially of the kind you’re talking about, for mainstream recognition — something more akin to what you’re doing, desperately throwing down thousands of words in the comments fields here, hoping to be recognized as a “legitimate” artist and thinker by Poetry Foundation visitors?

      Would a real legit practitioner, someone not desperate to be seen by others, someone who really was solely concerned with the matter at hand (“making art”), would such a person constantly insert themselves, at length, into the comments fields at the Poetry Foundation, with lengthy, droning displays of their “legitimacy”?

      Christian Bök, Kenneth Goldsmith, Kim Rosenfield, Darren Wershler, Gary Sullivan, Sharon Mesmer, Nada Gordon, and K. Silem Mohammad are neither dumbing down nor compromising what they do in any of the videos linked to above — nor are they droning, as is pretty clear given the rather lively audience reception — making your rather sad little account rather perplexing.

      • On May 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm Don Share wrote:

        Dunno if this affects our “legitimacy” or not, but fair warning: our summer issue will feature a selection of Flarf and Conceptual Poetry edited by Kenny Goldsmith which includes many of the folks who participated in the Whitney event.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm thomas brady wrote:

    *Stephen Burt (”it’s not worth writing a negative review of a book that will sink without a trace, which most poetry books do”)

    I just want to comment on this one. This is wrong in so many ways. Let me count them.

    1. How do we know the book will sink without a trace?

    2. Why can’t the review teach a lesson, and thus be valuable in itself, regardless of whether the book sinks without a trace, or not?

    3. What if the book deserves to sink without a trace, but would not, unless it were taken apart by a brilliant critic in a negative review?

    4. What does “which most poetry books do” have to do with anything?

    Before we go any further, we need to kill this bit of Burt-ism, which is nothing but killjoy.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 5:06 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    Book reviews are also a form of community service. If you have faith in your community, you take time to document its members’ achievements. Or you take on ideas or practices that should be more critically engaged. I was thinking of this also due to some comments in a thread over at Don Share’s blog, where some people prefer to write for money. Money’s great, but there are plenty of other reasons to write reviews: advancement of particular ideas, movements, etc all contribute to how communities of writers are seen and understood.

    • On May 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm Don Share wrote:

      Just to be clear – they don’t write for $$$ on my blog! Some commenters on a thread there have said that, like Samuel Johnson, and unlike his now-proverbial “blockhead,” they prefer to get paid when they write something; others associate writing for cash with a kind of “hyrda-headed” professionalism and ask whatever happened to “cultural” capital.

      • On May 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm Daisy Fried wrote:

        I agree with you completely on the variety of reasons to write reviews, Dale. My point over at Don’s place was only that the suggestion that poets write volunteer reviews (because that was what his suggestion amounted to under current lit-world conditions) was being made by someone who (extremely deservingly) gets paid to write reviews.

        • On May 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm Dale Smith wrote:

          Don, Daisy, thanks for your contributions on this topic. I’ve been thinking much of the day about the urge to write reviews because of this recent flurry of discussion–what social function such writing offers beyond the cultural or financial capital (though it can all gets tangled up ultimately, I suppose). Dr. Johnson is an appropriate figure to invoke in this thread. And Hazlitt (who Travis’ title connects us to) certainly stands with him at the opening of the current archive of literary history. One thing those writers contributed early on was a sense of the art form of the review itself–something that, in our conversations around the overall positive or negative aspects, can get lost.

          Cheers,

          Dale

          • On May 6, 2009 at 6:43 pm michael robbins wrote:

            >>some people prefer to write for money

            Jesus, Dale. You’re more churlish every time. As if anyone there denied that there are plenty of reasons to write reviews. As if I, for instance, did not say that I sometimes review for free. As if anyone started out writing reviews to get paid. All anyone said was that reviewing is work, & being recompensed is hardly anything to apologize for. I get paid well for my reviews & that is not the only reason I write them. It is not the only reason anyone writes reviews, since no one gets paid that well. You & John both are on some kind of purity trip that I, for one, find plenty wearisome.

          • On May 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm john wrote:

            Michael,

            Me?

            Don’t know what you’re talking about if so. I know we’ve had our scrapes in the past, but I thought they were past; never meant to lay a purist trip on anybody in any case — seems to me we’re all compromised, me very much included; never meant to imply otherwise.

            I’m the guy who liked what you had to say about jazz & hip hop in your response to Kent’s letter.

            Compromisedly yours — and thanks –

            J

          • On May 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm michael robbins wrote:

            no, no, different John! & I don’t even really mean what I said about him now either. (you must feel my pain re having a common name.)

  • On May 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm Jordan wrote:

    The emphasis on the general valence of reviews is silly, but how many letters to the editor call for more nuanced critique.

    Hate is a strong word, and actual hateful poetry is almost as rare as great writing. (“Hate is only one of many responses.”)

    What’s far more prevalent is indifference — indifferent poems collected in indifferent books, which if they’re average enough, yield a few bland and mainly unsupported assertions of value, some in print some on the internet. The community is served. Poetry can go… finish that sentence.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm john wrote:

    Poetry can go finish that sentence.
    Poetry can go home again.
    Poetry can go to town.
    Poetry can go to summer’s kitchen and cook up a new summer stew.
    Poetry can go yard.
    Poetry can go fish.
    Poetry can go downtown.
    Poetry can go uptown.
    Poetry can go-go.
    Poetry can go goo-goo ga-ga.
    Poetry can go up.
    Poetry can go down.
    Poetry can go down on someone.
    Poetry can go to the corner for a pack of cigarettes.
    Poetry can go goofy.
    Poetry can go past go.
    Poetry can go away.
    Poetry can go, go, go.
    Poetry can go to hell and back.
    Poetry can go to paradise in a handbasket.
    Poetry can go.

    Haven’t read all of the responses to Kent, but kudos to Ange M. for the Jarrell quote and to Michael R. for bringing jazz and hip hop into the discussion (although I’d say that TV has been the liveliest art of the last decade). Good stuff — thanks.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Btw, Travis, you had to pick that quote to highlight! As if I weren’t already looking over my shoulder …

    Thanks, John, for the kind words, & to Jordan for his valuable insight re indifference, with which I agree all too readily.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm Dale Smith wrote:

    Michael, I thought we signed some kind of truce under a separate clause in another thread (or maybe that’s been nullified). I don’t recall singling you out anywhere and I tried to ease off sounding harsher than I had initially intended about the money thing. Daisy’s kind note here made that clear to me. Please forgive any misreadings or failures to properly conduct myself in your esteemed presence.
    D

    • On May 6, 2009 at 6:58 pm michael robbins wrote:

      Well, I thought so too, which is why I was surprised by the churlishness, which continues in yr sarcastic concluding phrase. Thanks.

      • On May 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm Dale Smith wrote:

        Michael, thanks for understanding. Let’s talk backchannel sometime and see if we can’t work out our differences.

        Take care,

        Dale

        • On May 6, 2009 at 7:13 pm michael robbins wrote:

          Good idea. Apologies all around. You know I never mean for these things to get personal. Wounded feelings are par for here in non-space, I guess, & I’ve both given & received my share. It’s a problem I’m trying to work on.

          • On May 6, 2009 at 7:42 pm Dale Smith wrote:

            Michael, thanks for this. The first thing I read online today was an ad hominem barb thrust at me and others in the comments stream at Mark Wallace’s site. I’m usually pretty good at taking things impersonally, but I think such unprovoked slights can certainly sour my mood. Such meanness makes me less careful in my aims to create nuanced tone, to display sympathy, or to distance or deflect perceived threats, misreadings, etc. The flat surfaces of web space are always difficult for me to navigate, particularly since we have no advantage of elocution. So thanks again. I hope all’s well and that we can smooth over any future misunderstandings. (And sorry to Travis for bringing this into the thread–though why not–we all have to deal with it.) Dale

          • On May 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

            No apology necessary for me. We’ve all been there, and I appreciate the quasi-transparency here. I mean, mostly I’m thankful we don’t do this face-to-face, but every once in a while I wish I could give a little “meh” face to show it’s not life or death (also, I just saw how I was hoisted by my own petard wrt the “reply” button. It IS kind of confusing!)

          • On May 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm michael robbins wrote:

            Yeah, the thread at Mark’s is dispiriting. I wasn’t even involved – once someone has called someone else a “sperm guzzler” I’m assuming there is nothing to be gained by argument – & I got dragged into the thing anyway. (Michael is a very common name, trust me.)

            Travis, quite right: a little emoticon that signifies “hey, it’s the internet, we disagree, you can be a jerk, I can be a jerk, but we don’t wish each other ill.” Maybe I’ll just append that to my posts from now on.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 7:25 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    One of the most sophisticated books of literary criticism of recent times is Paul Fry’s “A Defense of Poetry”. There Fry outlined a theory of poetry as “ostensive”, by which he meant something like inert, meaningless, dead, nothing. A poem is an epitaph of a speech from the inhuman inert world of the non-living, the no-thing : as such, it gives much-needed rest to the ever-agitated human heart and mind. A rest from meaning, from representation of any thing. He explains this with close readings of Wordsworth & other poets.

    American poets have been agitated for decades to stir up the somnolent American public, to enlarge the audience for poetry, to draw the limelight to themselves… part of this agitation has included strapping loads of modern & postmodern & post-structuralist theory onto all kinds of gimcrack style-gizmos (the theories so ably & definitively critiqued by British philosopher Gillian Rose, in her 80s book “Dialectic of Nihilism”).

    If we imagine the literary cosmos of America as framed by an over-arching “ostensive” inertia or meaninglessness, and inhabited, filled, underneath this arch, by the febrile agitation of vain appeals for an active readership & public attention – well, in this context, the valences “negative” and “positive” with respect to poetry reviews & criticism get switched around. Negative is positive. Inert is awake. Dead is living. Voodoo is zombie.

    Quick positive mini-review : I recently read Jim Powell’s 80s book, “It was Fever That Made the World” (Univ of Chicago Press). I like the blend of classicism & California, though he’s awfully gloomy & portentous sometimes. Some pretty elegant conceits (like the poem dedicated to Ez Pound’s mistress Olga Rudge, depicting her as Homer’s Circe). Looking forward to reading the new book of his which came out recently.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 7:35 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    p.s. I don’t actually accept Paul Fry’s theory, though it is very evocative & compelling.

    I think poetry critics should look for the writing that aspires to STAND OUT : & not just in order to show off, but because it has a necessary social theme which the poet feels driven or inspired to try to address. It has an “argument”, in Milton’s sense. It’s not going to be necessarily large or grand : it might be the opposite, a still small voice.

    This kind of poetry would be the opposite of Jordan’s “indifferent”, mediocre stuff. You would recognize it right away as exceptional, because it FORCES you to.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 8:23 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    & finally, my two cents on anonymous reviewing : I agree with what Mark Halliday wrote about it.

    I’m agin’ it. Stand by your word & take the consequences, sez Rudyard. If you cower behind “Anonny”, you make reviewing more trivial than it already is – which seems to defeat the supposed purpose of the ploy.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm Michael wrote:

    Yeah, that thread at Mark Wallace’s started off dispiriting with Kent’s embarrassing ad hominem attacks on poets with whom he’s had personal issues, and then the inevitable pile-up of his sycophantic crew (sorry, but that’s his own word for people who do mitzvahs for each other) pretending to wring their hands about how ugly things got. (Another round of defending Ed Dorn and his & Tom Clark’s AIDS awards for Steve Abbott, anyone?)

  • On May 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    In reference to the comment by “Michael” above (sorry, don’t know who Michael is), I would invite anyone to check out the discussion at Mark Wallace’s blog and see for yourself if I engage, as he says, in “embarrassing ad hominem” attacks. Carefully check, if you care to, each of my comments. Then read the venom that is being hurled by others there, including the above-singed “Michael.”

    http://wallacethinksagain.blogspot.com/

    I made a simple critical comment about Flarf, in relation to a point pertaining to reviewing practices brought up in my Mayday piece. After that, a wild posse, accusing me of indiscriminate fellatio, among other things, seemed to materialize from thin air!

    Mind you, I’m sort of used to this. And I freely admit that I like it.

    And you do, a little bit, too.

    Kent

    • On May 6, 2009 at 9:10 pm Michael wrote:

      Wow, less than fifteen minutes before you scramble to defend your churlish behavior, Kent!

      That explains the decade or so of uninspired poetry we’ve had from you post-Hiroshima-survivor hoax.

      • On May 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm michael robbins wrote:

        Why are you so angry with me, Michael? I’m sorry if I upset you somehow.

        By the way, I was the one attacking Dale, John, & Kent for defending Dorn. Remember?

      • On May 6, 2009 at 9:40 pm michael robbins wrote:

        Kent said: “It would have been interesting to hear what they had to say, inasmuch as reviewing within that group tends to evidence, I believe, some of the mutual back-scratching problems I mention in my piece.”

        If THAT is “embarrassing ad hominem,” try the replies:

        Meg: “Kent, in your little latta smith circle it’s not really back-scratching so much as sperm guzzling. Sorry but you do only seem to hang out (and mutually cock suck) men.”

        James (none of these people have surnames): “Whatever the motivation, it’s at least worth pointing out that fawning sycophancy (to say nothing of self-righteous attacking of others) is the order of the day among the circle Kent Johnson has surrounded himself with.”

        Jordan: “Funny, Kent, I don’t picture you at all. I mean, I’m told you exist, are not a heteronym, are an honest crusader against the abuses of the author function, would never commit logrolling or backscratching or any of the offenses you attribute to others.”

        James: “Kent Johnson is now crying about people attacking him? Kent opens the comments field here with a couple of personal attacks, the worst being his self-aggrandizing and rather insipid retort to Rodney’s generous comment to Mark.
        If Kent seems bent on becoming an unending embarrassment to his circle, I fail to understand why he should expect people to consistently fail to point that out.”

        Note that Kent’s comments are not personal, but directed at a tendency he descries in Flarf. The responses are directed at Kent personally. They are, yes, embarrassing, & ad hominem. I’m a bit surprised anyone could come to any other conclusion.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 10:11 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Michael(Robbins),

    You left off some of the best ones!

    Here’s one I especially like:

    from “Tom”:

    >Actually, what’s legendary, Kent, is your paranoia, self-aggrandizing hypocrisy, the fawning sychophancy of your followers, and the general irrelevance of your thought and poetry.

    Or this one, from “Colin”:

    >Kent, who were the flarfers you asked who didn’t respond? I know I asked this before, but it looks sort of bad that you can’t supply an answer to this, and I’d like to give you an opportunity to prove that you’re not just an out and out liar. [note: names provided in reply]

    Lesson numero uno: Don’t offer any gentle criticisms of the Flarf circle!

    Kent

    • On May 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm michael robbins wrote:

      It is sadly true, you ol’ sperm guzzler.

      • On May 7, 2009 at 10:12 am Miriam Levine wrote:

        “sperm guzzler”? Does that mean c–k sucker?

        • On May 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

          Use your imagination, Miriam! Duh! And THANKS for that quote from Byron – it’s EXACTLY what I needed to know for something I’m writing at this very minute.
          Meriam

  • On May 6, 2009 at 10:15 pm Miriam Levine wrote:

    Philip Larkin dismissed Auden’s poetry as “a rambling intellectual stew.”

    Randall Jarrell described Auden as a “a rhetoric mill grinding away at the bottom of Limbo.”

  • On May 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .

    Poets & Critics

    A pandemonium of shoots and seeds and tendrils,
    growth and life and creeping vines,
    many colored flowers, great oaks and pines,
    gentle bamboo and bees and beasts…
    a forest growing beautiful and natural
    and wild.

    Others come here, collect these leaves and petals,
    take them home, identify and classify and file,
    press them between books,
    then compare these sinless specimens to
    one another.

    Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    .

  • On May 6, 2009 at 10:23 pm Miriam Levine wrote:

    Byron on Keats’ poems:

    “a sort of mental masturbation. I don’t mean he is indecent, but viciously soliciting his ideas into a state, which is neither poetry nor any thing else but a Bedlam vision produced by raw pork and opium.”

  • On May 7, 2009 at 12:04 am Michael Theune wrote:

    I was so glad that Travis posted on the Mayday poetry reviewing forum, for, as his final sentence says: frustratingly, there’s no way to comment on the pieces over at Mayday. I wonder: could we (a la Thomas Brady–with whom, in this case, I agree–and a few others) chat a bit about some of the particulars of some of those responses?

    For example, to follow a lead that Travis’s selection of juicy quotes points to: is Johannes Goransson correct when he notes that Poetry seems to encourage quarrels? Goransson even suggests that Poetry might be “quarrel-baiting”–is this correct? If so, how does one feel about this? And then: how does one feel to be writing about this on Poetry’s blog?

    Additionally, Stephen Burt notes, “Under the right circumstances I would write a blistering attack on any of about eight very famous or widely respected poets, with my name attached (you get a cookie if you can guess which poets).” While knowing Burt’s list of poets might be interesting (I’m titillated, and a bit hungry), I’m much more interested in knowing what “the right circumstances” would be for such “a blistering attack.” Why hasn’t Burt written these reviews? What will it take?

    There’s great stuff in these responses. I hope we might dicuss more of it…

  • On May 7, 2009 at 1:48 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    “Remarkable.”

    “Astonishing.”

    “A truly historic event.”

    “The new Geoffrey Hill.”

    “The gift of Carol Ann Duffy deconstructing Ron Silliman’s male vernacular in a wave to Stevie Smith.”

    The talent of Pattern and stature of McGough”

    “The complete poetic competent with the professional confidence of an off-page Jane hirshfield or suitless Nick Laird in receipt of state benefits and busking a C note a weekend with only his aura to magnetize a throng upon the cobbles at Covent Garden …”

    “…his live pulling power has the mesmeric allure of Gearóid Mac Lochlainn winning the bi-annual Bloomsbury slam by skilfully revealing the genealogy of his linguistic DNA with a tigerish Irish noblesse only those whose eye can reason rhyme and sense what riddle from the celtic fit of ratios found at home, will speak a code of sound that breaks the syntax…”

    “….the purity of Berryman’s inner meloncholy mixed with Motion’s most hypnotic rural line, to create a comedic felicity – equal to, if not beyond, the sublimal wit of South Yorkshire’s only living troubadour and the people’s poet laureate, a hopefully soon to be, Sir Ian MacMillan…..”

    “….these poems draw from the cultural core of language, a flawless energy whose combustible force of internal zeitgeist motors the engine of an incredible art.”

    “…The next Muldoon.

    A difference of similarities in titterish grace, double-take wonder and cock a doddle doing through the bog Gods from that ancient and mythical place in profund diddlee dee, where consciousness meets itself in the entropic mysteriousness of a continually collapsing mind..”

    “..exiled understudy and heir to Paul Durcan’s arch potential of mystic urban note from the facial-hair free Dennis O’Driscoll, mirrored with in-placeness by a Mossbawn bard devoid of a dayjob: paddling in vast pools of knowledge and experiencing heights of unemployability only the most articulate of verse-makers reach to speak favourably from….”

    “…his and her enthralling voice bear the hallmark and clarity of commitment reminiscent of a younger Mahon, Longley, Paulin or Carson – whilst Kennelly’s honest echo lilts-to-ground this harmonious experiment in metrical chiming sprinkled with Collins’ commercial fairydust, striking its note of pure aurality and sounding one lone call from truth’s trench above the swamps of contemporary verse…”

    “…..the image of Sister Gwendolene beheading his hamster during a brutalised childhood in Limerick’s Magdalene laundry has a startling effect. Memory-flashes daring us stop, picture, question and sense if the cosmos shops its way seeking balance for our spirit’s short drag through life’s technological trance.”

    “Unlike anyone else writing today. The next Sir Nobody.”

    • On May 7, 2009 at 10:10 am Miriam Levine wrote:

      What swarmy toadying puffs!

  • On May 7, 2009 at 10:37 am Travis Nichols wrote:

    A great look at going negative for the ages is A Lexicon of Musical Invective.

  • On May 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm Terreson wrote:

    An interesting discussion, and mostly for what it says about the motives of individual critics, less for what it says about poetry crit. itself.

    About the only variety of crit. I cotton to any more is the variety M. McLane points to. See Catherine Halley’s early comment. Other than that I am with Yeats on the matter:

    “Hic: And I would find myself and not an image.

    Ille: That is our modern hope, and by its light
    We have lit upon the gentle, sensitive mind
    And lost the old nonchalance of the hand;
    Whether we have chosen chisel, pen or brush
    We are but critics or but half create,
    Timid, entangled, empty and abashed,
    Lacking the countenance of our friends.”

    Some years ago I lived on the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula, WA state, and out from the small town of Port Angeles. The town was hard-bitten and desperate, the mills long since shut down. The area had only two major industries left: tourism feeding on visitors passing through on their way into the Olympic National Park and a prison about fifty miles out from town. The town had two bookstores, one of which was a used bookstore and the other made its money mostly on selling magazines. One day in town, and stopping in one of the bookstores, I walked up to the clerk and asked him where was the lit crit section. He snorted and said, “You’re in Port Angeles, man.”

    Terreson

  • On May 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    David Lau (editor with Cal Bedient of the journal Lana Turner), who participated in the Mayday forum, sent me today this delightful passage of a letter from Marx to Weydemeyer (1852), about “how to deal with a communist poet,” and the importance of the “difference between the ‘poet’ and the ‘critic.’ The political affiliations are secondary, surely:

    >Our Freiligrath is the most amiable, unassuming man in private life, who beneath his real bonhomie conceals un esprit tres fin et tres railleur; his emotion is “truthful” and does not make him “uncritical” and “superstitious.” He is a genuine revolutionary and an honset man through and through–and this can be said of few men. Nevertheless, whatever kind of homme he is, the poet needs praise and admiration. I believe that the genre itself requires this. I am telling you all this simply to point out that in your correspondence with Freiligrath, you should not forget the difference between the “poet” and the “critic.”

    • On May 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm Don Share wrote:

      That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

  • On May 7, 2009 at 2:32 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Criticism reproduces poetry by eating it.

    All criticism is negative, because it dissolves its subject in a chemical reaction.

    The pleasure of reading joins with the analysis of criticism only in the most astute critics.

    Composition is the food of philosophy.

    Philosophy’s gain is always Poetry’s loss.

    A poem seeks the notice of a criticism—but nothing else.

    Criticism is the attempt to make the poet seem honest.

    To a critic, why and how a poem was written is always more important than the poem.

    A manifesto signifies nothing but a new coterie.

    The blurb is born from the manifesto.

    Criticism should always destroy the manifesto.

    The raison d’etre of the avant garde is to hide from criticism, to be recherche, to be French to the critic’s English.

    The chief desire of the avant garde poet is to devise a poetry that is dishonest and failure-proof.

    The best advice to the coterie: once your manifesto is noticed, attack it.

    The trouble with toadyism is that it attempts to reconcile cowardice with sensitivity.

  • On May 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Here are my favorite quotes from MAY DAY:

    DAVID ORR calling poetry ‘community doings.’

    Negative remarks about entertainment are expected; we all feel free to openly loathe ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ Negative remarks about community doings, on the other hand, are rarely nice; they “verge on being antisocial.”

    JOHN BEER’S acknowledgement of a vital cultural phenomenon:

    The most salient contemporary project of critical anonymity, that associated with Alan Cordle’s “Foetry…”

    followed by this from JOHN BRADLEY:

    The reviewer cannot be a friend, teacher, student, pet-sitter, neighbor, relative, former lover, or partner of the author of the book reviewed. A simple contract could easily stipulate this.

    “stagnation and rot” from SCOTT ESPOSITO:

    There is no reason to believe that the stagnation and rot that has hollowed out literary criticism in newspapers and magazines has not extended to poetry criticism as well, and it has now been with us long enough that there has been time for an entire generation of poets to have come of age under it.

    BILL FREIND cheering on the blogs:

    Blogs and the comment sections to both online journals and the blogs themselves have seriously weakened the Olympian pronouncements that characterized too many reviews for too long a time.

    Wisdom from DAISY FRIED:

    Anything that gets people talking is good.

    MARK HALLIDAY:

    Most of us probably agree that the constant din of puff-positive reviews is regrettable, and tends toward absurdity.

    DAVID LAU:

    Sure, criticism should be more ruthless and pitiless.

    MURAT NEMET-NEJAT warns us off Silliman:

    I forbid each reviewer from reading Ron’s blog.

    ANGE MLINKO:

    We are still Romantics [i.e., big fat babies]

    ANNIE FINCH, saying anonymity is OK if it helps us:

    Take the reader’s side.

    RICHARD OWENS:

    I find humor in Dorn’s scathing comment on [Gertrude] Stein.

    KRISTEN PREVALLET:

    I, like many other poets out there, make my living by teaching freshman composition, and I must say that Kent Johnson’s appeal for anonymity in reviewing is just a variation of a condition I try to school out of my students: the fear of the audience and its response to a writer’s opinions.

    REBECCA PORTE:

    I like this idea immensely. English language letters has a long and rich tradition of anonymous reviewing.

    BARRY SCHWABSKY:

    And where’s the money for that going to come from? The Poetry Foundation, maybe.

    DON SHARE:

    These days, if you want to say something bad about someone, just hang the albatross of “New Critic” round his or her neck. Yet there was a time when poets – Pound, Eliot, Jarrell, Berryman, Schwartz, Ransom, Tate, Winters (and before them, Matthew Arnold, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Samuel Johnson and others) – took on the burden of writing criticism as if the art depended upon it.

    V. JOSHUA ADAMS:

    Ingratiation, sycophancy, fawning, jargon: these are not criticism.

    ROBERT ARCHAMBEAU:

    It comes down to incentive. The Modern Language Association suggested we start counting reviews as publications worthy of consideration at tenure and promotion time.

    TIM ATKINS:

    The pleasure & the problem with poetry (review culture) is that we all know each other: most negative criticism seems to be taken as a personal attack as opposed to an aesthetic engagement. It is hard not to feel upset when a friend says something mean about one’s book: & therein lies the problem.

    ROBERT BAIRD

    The question, then, is how not to be dull.

  • On May 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    To be a poet and not know the trade
    To be a critic and repel all love
    Twin ironies by which shibboleths are made
    The agonising jaw of pincer-criticisms

    ah ! heaven’s great, plenty of women
    saints and great gas all round, sticking the boot in and panning the poems coz yer don’t like the photie, feel in a bad mood, wanna row with a rival, and all in all, nothing but one person’s opinion – Criticism.

    WARNING SPECULATIVE HYBRID FORM – poetry crit – TRY IT ER COP

    REAL LIVE NARRATOR S/HE, CREATION OF me, VOICING NOT MY THOUGHTS BUT THEIR OWN, ONES i TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR BECAUSE THEY CAN STAND AND SPEAK ALONE. POETRY CRITICISM – WHAT IS IT? TELL ‘EM – S/HE

    ~

    I have not read much WB Logan, just enough to know i do not loik da mind of da mahn – d’yiz git moi yah, hey, hey, William you plastic bill-bore gymnast out of gas?

    If any here know this pretender, to see or speak to, tell him these words are Desmond’s words, ‘n r’gonna fill him in critically, because what i have read, amounts to a string of lemon faced one-liners strung together by Sad-faced Men narrators who populate his dull imagination.

    Sullen Weedy Lakes Vain Empires he has no Reputations of the Tongue in dublin, tell him, down at Write and Recite, The Seven Towers and the Unitarian Church, and when we meet, tell him i’m The Undiscovered Country and Strange Flesh that’s gonna rip up his rep, demolish him in Night Battle, eat his oeuvre, Macbeth in Venice at the The Whispering Gallery of Desperate Measures where All the Rage is what i say it is, and promise me, the s/he will meet him at Our Savage Art and spit back out what his word wrought,

    Bishop (logan) must have recognized she had no gift for drawing people…or writing intelligently about the prophetic art, only sneer and feel, yo, who’s the man?

    At his best, he (broken logan) stayed just this side of wild-eyed prophesying, though his grandeurs might easily be mistaken for grandiosity..Hart Crane calling back through s/he who speaks to the hand beind the man behind the man streets ahead of whatsisgob?

    That world of linen suits and embassy parties seems as distant as Edwardian England, but then so do existentialists. oh ho ho, aren’t you funny, come on Logan and show me your unfunny side which knows more than how to talk like a toff saying nothing but waffling hot air.

    Seigas Well, whaddya say?

    Up your way, is it, the centre of gravity, poetic scop, flyte maestro who is getting whupped by a bloke in an attic calling to the sidhe you know zip of, buster plastic paddy-named faker, all the warmth of an undertaker burying the body that made love to his partner when you was working on the draft cause for the good ole boys in, where was it – Yale and Iowa you became an ollamh, is it mister jolly stilleto lover with only a head not even at grade 2 Tamhan, poet’s assistant, you have a long way to go before you reach level 3 Drisac, apprentice satirist, mister Golan, goal nowhere man, sitting with that nowhere band, smashing up the dreams and plans of poets just because you can, but this is it, my time has come, we are going to collide and all your sneery little jibes, exposed – so git bendin, praise s/he who stole your stilts, loosen up and let me show you what it is you do not know, Logan mister nowhere man.

    ~

    The above text is entirely experimental and designed so s/he gets noticed

    Sh hear ye fools in verbal trade
    what is shoddy and not well made
    in a country where knaves teach
    less and less literature each day

    where ignorance reigns supreme
    and fewer people read, but steal
    that which is written, to write ten
    and more flarf poems at one sitting -

    Tell him, desmond’s words are gonna git yah !

  • On May 7, 2009 at 5:25 pm Sina Queyras wrote:

    “The pleasure & the problem with poetry (review culture) is that we all know each other: most negative criticism seems to be taken as a personal attack as opposed to an aesthetic engagement. It is hard not to feel upset when a friend says something mean about one’s book: & therein lies the problem.”

    Negative criticism is taken personally because it usually is personal. It usually reflects, very deeply, the feelings of the person doing the reviewing.

    Constructive criticism, on the other hand, even when it’s severe in its probing and questioning, isn’t perceived as personal. The inability to get beyond the good/bad positive/negative discussion around reviewing is completely shocking to me.

    On the other hand, saying something is dreadful, or that Rick Moody is the “worst writer of his generation” or that “Anne Carson is a fraud,” or “so and so is overrated,” might feel good for the reviewer, but it tells us little about the writers themselves, and is of little use to our reading.

    • On May 7, 2009 at 5:36 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

      I don’t know. I bet it felt good for Garrett Caples to write this review of American Hybrid–a fairly negative one, that gets a dig in at David St. John–but is it completely useless to our reading?

  • On May 7, 2009 at 5:45 pm Sina Queyras wrote:

    Travis, is that a negative review? Why? It doesn’t love the book, it asks questions, seems to have engaged quite fairly, seeks context. It doesn’t seem very negative to me.

    • On May 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

      Sina Queyras,

      It seems “negative” in the way in which that word has been used here. To wit wrt David St. John: “Nor do I care to know a poet whose intro claims ‘Contemporary American Poetry is thriving on every front’ like a hedge-fund brochure.”

      It doesn’t seem indifferent, at least.

      Travis

      • On May 7, 2009 at 7:03 pm michael robbins wrote:

        That is an awesome line. And yes, the point is & must be that “negcrit” is not about saying dumb things like “x is the worst writer in lower Madison” or “y is overrated.” That’s just flag-waving unless it’s married to argument. I think a lot of reviewers could do worse than to think much harder about why they believe that x is overrated or y is schmaltzy or z is a sperm guzzler. Elucidate yr opposition well enough & it becomes a credo.

  • On May 7, 2009 at 8:32 pm Michael Theune wrote:

    Thomas Brady: I appreciate your aphorisms on reviewing–much smart stuff there (the final two, especially).

  • On May 7, 2009 at 8:55 pm Michael Theune wrote:

    Caples’s review seems negative-ish to me. It doesn’t like much about AmHy, but it doesn’t critique the anth as closely or as much as it could. Additionally, Caples also simply states that he prefers to not have his avant-garde watered down by the mainstream, so no wonder he doesn’t care too much for this middle space anth. Thus, to my reading, the negativity isn’t really all that heavy: here’s someone who says he doesn’t care much for this kind of writing, and, yup, he doesn’t.

    I’ll be much more persuaded by the review (negative or positive) that gets into the guts of the anth, that convinces me that the editors’ selections (of poets and particular poems) are somehow truly apt–contributing to the revelation of a substantial, key trend in contemporary American poetry–or inept–say, sacrificing critical acumen to other causes, including the mostly personal, the merely professional, or (perhaps worst of all) sheer carelessness.

  • On May 7, 2009 at 11:11 pm Don Share wrote:

    I’m with Michael Theune here. From the review linked above: “Even John Ashbery doesn’t fit. He hasn’t ‘moved into the mainstream’; the mainstream moved to him. But mainstream adherents are tiresome. [...] Mainstream poetry is ephemeral. Ever hear of Stephen Phillips? William Watson? Austin Dobson? Some of the most popular mainstream poets in 1890s England, they’re forgotten today. [...]. At best mainstream poetry echoes what was avant-garde but is now condoned. It’s the poetry of bourgeois comfort, of received ideas wrapped in clichés.”

    Sounds negative to me – so the question as always is: good negative or bad?

    • On May 7, 2009 at 11:16 pm michael robbins wrote:

      Those poets weren’t forgotten because they were “mainstream.” They were forgotten because they wrote tiresome poetry in 1890′s England & the door was about to be blown off its hinges. Swinburne & Wilde were mainstream enough & idiosyncratic enough to remain. “Mainstream” is an empty descriptor.

      • On May 7, 2009 at 11:18 pm michael robbins wrote:

        Also, Sir Share, thou shouldst be checking thy inbox at this hour, England hath need of thee.

      • On May 7, 2009 at 11:27 pm Don Share wrote:

        Seems like a one-upped version of Ron’s thing about James Russell Lowell/Jones Very/& Sidney Lanier being the prime movers of quietism, eh?

        • On May 7, 2009 at 11:33 pm michael robbins wrote:

          Don’t get me started …

  • On May 8, 2009 at 2:51 am Sina Queyras wrote:

    All I can say is, if you think that is negative, we have certainly encountered a much different strand of review.

    It seems extremely tame, and mostly justified.

    Perhaps this illuminates my knee-jerk reaction to the negative.

    • On May 8, 2009 at 10:01 am Don Share wrote:

      I think name-calling “tiresome” and guilting-by-association negative & – in this case – unjustified. But that’s just my own feeling about it. I admire Caples a lot, and felt disappointed by this review even though, as folks may remember from my ancient post on American Hybridism here, I also think that it’s not a successful book or concept.

  • On May 8, 2009 at 3:32 am Nic Sebastian wrote:

    Another approach might be to introduce non-poetry-publishing poetry critics into the mix. Is there some law that says only publishing poets may be poetry critics?

    A role for a body like the Poetry Foundation here — establishing and nurturing a cadre of good critical minds that have nothing vested in the po-biz. Every other arts business has non-practitioners-of-the-art-under-criticism critics, after all.

    Great discussion!

    Nic

    • On May 8, 2009 at 9:59 am Don Share wrote:

      We try to do this more or less, in the magazine with the occasional “View From Here” feature, but generally, though it’s an attractive idea, we’ve had difficulty finding people who can pull it off. Suggestions, of course, welcome!

  • On May 8, 2009 at 8:32 am Henry Gould wrote:

    Seems like a useful way to put the Norton “American Hybrid” anthology into lit-historical perspective, would be to compare it to the Norton anthology of 15 yrs ago, edited by Paul Hoover (“Postmodern American Poetry”).

    There, I just gave somebody a job I should do myself. Trouble is I can’t seem to bring myself to read either one…

  • On May 8, 2009 at 8:53 am thomas brady wrote:

    Thomas Brady: I appreciate your aphorisms on reviewing–much smart stuff there (the final two, especially).

    Michael Theune,

    Thanks for the compliment, and I notice I didn’t quote you from May Day! I do agree with what you said there, however, that editors should encourage longer, more substantial reviews. Brief reviews need to be pithy, and it seems this is not our era’s strength.

    Speaking of which, let me get this out of my system. I wrote this on the train coming into work today; I had no notebook with me, so I had to use the space in a newspaper advertisement:

    Lament Of The Poet-Critic

    O, Mother, I wrote something mean,
    And now my pen weighs a ton–
    The journey to the star and the star are the same–
    Poem and Criticism are one!

    Here’s a point I want to make re: your suggestion of the longer review.

    Why don’t we bring in HISTORY more often? Literary taste, literary movements, author reputations, are all made by historical realities, and, if meaningful in themselves, make historical realities. I don’t believe you can talk about the avant garde or the New Criticism or anapests or even review the latest workshop poet’s first book, without bringing in Dame History, even if she is frumpy and frowns and ridicules the art. I don’t trust any critic, really, who ignores history.

    Thomas

  • On May 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm Michael Theune wrote:

    Thanks, Thomas.

    Riffing off of Henry’s and Don’s recent comments…

    Certainly, comparing AmHy to Hoover’s anthology would bear critical fruit; however, I don’t think one needs to go back that far–one could compare it to Reginald Shepherd’s recent hybrid anthologies, The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries and Lyric Postmodernisms–both deeply problematic. Among the problems (in addition to and alongside those brought up in Don’s assessment of AmHy–it turns out they knew things in ancient days!): the vast omission of wit and humor in hybrid poetics; and the fact that, with a little juking of the editing, many of the hybrid poets could be shown to be, sure, at times, hybrid, but at others very mainstream (or plain speech, or what have you).

    And, to my mind, AmHy pretty much just repeats these problems. This is not a critique of the poets or the poems included in AmHy, but with the concept behind these kinds of anthologies, and the problematic ways these concepts are enacted.

    As a testament to the power of a “‘satellite economy’ of apocryphal reviewing” Kent calls for, the Feneon Collective had posted a terrific, succinct (one or two sentences) entry on AmHy over at their Faits Divers blog, something about the sociology of groups trumping aesthetics… But Faits Divers is down now, it seems… (Is a book of faits divers on the horizon? If so, you can read it there, then.)

  • On May 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Michael, I gues my thought was it would be interesting to compare the editorial rationale of the “Postmodern” to “American Hybrid”, because

    1) the Hoover anthology appeared before Reginald Shepherd & others began talking about “hybrid” (although I guess in some circles – I’m thinking fiction, architecture – postmodern = hybrid).

    2) they both came from same publisher.

    • On May 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Just to elaborate a little on my speculative thought-experiment (since I haven’t looked at the Norton Postmodern anthology in a long time, & haven’t read the Am. Hybrid) :

      Norton Postmodern / Norton American Hybrid -

      Compare the editorial statements. How do the editors articulate what is currently valuable & relevant, 1994/2009? How do they describe their respective audiences, the general literary atmosphere?

      With those comparisons in mind – how do the actual selections compare? Overlaps? Similarities? Differences?

      OK, you have your assignment, people. I don’t plan to actually DO this experiment myself!

      • On May 8, 2009 at 4:49 pm Michael Theune wrote:

        A good assignment, Henry–if done (ahem, at all) well, it WOULD be revelatory! Cheers, Mike

  • On May 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Henry,

    I like your comparative approach here, and I like that you are stepping back and asking how the sausage is made, noting how the publishers are the same in this instance.

    I think we need to focus on the banal, gossipy facts of history. Who? What? When?

    ‘Modern’ and ‘postmodern’ are by now such hollow terms, they can really only be studied as these sorts of historical vicissitudes.

    Scholarly pride necessitates we consider them as terms, but aesthetically, they are rabbit holes.

    When aesthetes, who have no real interest in historical origins, dominate discussion on ‘post-modernism, it’s time to pull the rug out from under the entire enterprise.

    No wonder poetry feels cut-off from not only the public, but from other scholars.

    To understand modernism and post-modernism, we should examine these things BEFORE they were CALLED modernism and post-modernism. Without this historical perspective, I don’t think we can understand them.

    For instance, if we don’t study what William James taught Gertrude Stein at Harvard, we don’t know modernism.

    If we don’t study T.S. Eliot’s New England/Emersonian roots, and only know the St. Louis, Paris and London Eliot, we don’t know T.S. Eliot and we don’t know modernism.

    If we don’t understand why T.S. Eliot feared ‘the French Poe,’ we don’t know modernism.

    I could go on, and others here could list their own hidden histories. The point is not how much I know, and others know. My point is that it is precisely this sort of historical detective work which will allow us to come to terms with ‘modernism’ and ‘post-modernism’ in a way that make sense to other disciplines and the general public.

    Thomas

  • On May 8, 2009 at 8:28 pm Terreson wrote:

    I don’t trust this conversation. It is tailored, shaped, to fit the critic’s need in hyper-extension to be reckoned as a poet’s equal. The critic never is the poet’s equal.

    I figure Robert Pinsky is pretty poetry smart. Here is something he said in an interview:

    “EWR: You have quoted Ezra Pound saying, “The highest form of criticism is actual composition.” What criticisms have you made in your poetry you feel are most important to your work or legacy?

    Pinsky: Criticism is based on the Greek krinos,meaning “to choose.” I take Pound to mean that the poet must choose constantly– what word to use, what grammatical construction, how to order the parts, which is the best rhythm?

    In contrast, most critics rarely choose, or they choose what they feel is conventionally or academically acceptable, or aligned with the opinions of their pack. The artist does not have that luxury: the artist must choose.

    I hope that in my poems I have made useful, heartfelt, original choices regarding rhythm– making new patterns of vowel and consonant, line and sentence– and subject matter, and movement of mind.”

    http://www.everywritersresource.com/pinsky.html

    Pinsky’s comments speak to me. As I said above, critics are never, nor have they ever been, a poet’s equal.

    (thank you d for sending me the link.)

    Terreson

    • On May 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm Henry Gould wrote:

      Just a reminder, Terreson – you’re in conversation with a bunch of poets.

      • On May 9, 2009 at 1:52 am michael robbins wrote:

        & poet-critics!

  • On May 8, 2009 at 9:57 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    .

    Dinner with Critics

    .
    One night a man had a fine dinner,
    prime rib and lobster,
    music and laughter, hors d’oeuvres;
    fine red wine.

    Later that night, after his murder,
    the coroner sliced open a pink
    and blue sack of stomach,
    emptied it of leftover lobster
    and prime rib. A faint sour smell
    of red wine

    .
    Copyright 2009 – Ponds and Lawns, Gary B. Fitzgerald

    • On May 8, 2009 at 11:19 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Aw, Jeez…Fitzgerald’s loaded again, slappin’ poems all over cyberspace like bottle rockets on the Fourth of July. Like little Willy Bonney in town on a Friday night with a six-shooter, but…

      Damn! Not a critic in sight!

  • On May 9, 2009 at 10:00 am thomas brady wrote:

    Terreson,

    All Pinsky is really saying there is that artists make more choices, more detailed choices. So what? A man at dinner makes all sorts of choices: how should I hold my fork? In which order shall I eat the food on my plate?

    This is the problem with poets today: they are philosophically inane.

    Pinsky accuses critics of making choices based on the “opinions of their pack.” Good Lord in Heaven, poets don’t run in “packs?”

    Playing a game of chess involves many choices. The better the players, the less choices, for the great players are hemmed in by how much they see. Beginners move their pieces willy nilly all over the board. They make more choices.

    The real question is: are your choices good or bad? The fact is, poets resent critics who make a lot of choices. Poe made detailed choices in his criticisms and they hated him for it. Pinksy and your cherished poets, Tere, prefer to be slathered in general praise.

    As a poet, do you want your every minute choice questioned? No, you’d quickly grow resentful. Then poets shouldnd’t brag about how many important choices they make. It’s a non-argument. It’s one more device the poets use to keep the critics at bay.

    Thomas

  • On May 9, 2009 at 10:10 am thomas brady wrote:

    Gary,

    A food critic doesn’t judge food that’s half-digested in someone’s belly.

    Only a poet who resents criticism would use such nutty logic.

    The Romantic idea that poetry is good and the world that doesn’t appreciate poetry is bad (with all critics in the latter camp) might fly today in Hollywood, but not in Letters–well, except for guys like Robert Pinsky…

    Clinging to this old Romantic idea just aligns you with those con artists who want to ‘publish’ your poetry for you–because you and your poetry are so special.

    You’re smarter than that, Gary; I really admire some of your poems and that’s why I know you’re smarter than that.

    Crap. I’m sorry. Am I sobering you up?

    Thomas

  • On May 9, 2009 at 1:06 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    GUEST POST: JOHN LENNON.

    Pinsky at his blog, is very particular about what choice of comment to publish, immensley so, hugely. Yes, Robert is a very fine senior Poet making an amazing amount of choices, from across the spectum as a professional verse-maker wroughting not only ditties which penetrate to the heart of Art’s whole project of history and Civilisation and generally reflecting the cosmic mind behind the hand behind the author writing it all, who some call God, and others the unconscious order of unknowable tune, for example — but also Pinksy makes hugely significant choices as a human being, deciding what comment best serves the Art of it all in his head.

    Indeed, of the blogposts that i read, i only read one, a short line more or less saying the author of it was in love with everything and agreed with all being propounded.

    Commentators though, come and go, what we need to specualte and situate as professional bores who actually work as that, talking sense based on scholarly rigour and a sense of truthfulness which bestow gravity and the authentic load of the real live Poet.

    Boberto in this capacity, as a bore of immensly significant consequence in this, the however many hundred thousandth year of human sentience – as a leader, a speaker for us, and for all who came before us, what the Australian poet and light entertainment genius Clive James would feel comfortyable reffering to in his own Australian-English vernacular, as the rellies, which means Relative.

    So we must bear this in mind when we chat our opinions at the rarest form of gas, under the guise and label of Criticism, because if we don’t, what happens is,one’s poetic probity can be called to answer charges of derilicting the duty of those in our guild tasked with talking at length in commentaries which an editor would have no problem defending as a choice for publication, because of, not only the gravity and logic in the writing itself as a beyond po-mo artefact of post post-modernist text in which spaces are investigated at quantumn level – but also because of the reputatation of the Poet.

    Bob on and being plumb, divinging within and finding the real you, is a game of blowing halloo to yourself aurally and putting effort in by actually sitting down on what is known in Liverpool and Dublin as, one’s ass, or arse and actually doing a bit of jolly hard pretend, whilst also tap, tapping the keypad and dancing along to tease out the thought of you who is you and not, Bob say, or Jane Hirshfield, who is also in the game of having a reputation.

    Same as Boberto and WB Logan, in the sense that she is a Poet who knows it and others too, know of all three, this triumvirate of poets, which is known technically, as a threesome.

    Approachiong each topic with equal rigour and a thoroughness which mark one out as a show off unafraid to do exactly what’s expected – we pretend to care and know everything in the world ever, that we are really, really clever and warm and nice and lovely, lovely civilised people only after world peace – by harnessing and engineering into our work, the sincerity of spirit we all have as sentient luvvies, be we a piece of curtain in a disused Woolworth supplier factory never to see the light of day hung above a lintel of the fenêtre, (which is the French word for window, actually) or a very well liked poet who the readers trust because of their authenticity, like Bob.

    Sloppy Bob

    Poet In Residence
    Of a phone booth

    Just outside the window
    Every other Sunday
    In the summer months
    Four till five

    AM.

    Block-bookings taken
    up to about nine
    Or sometimes ten
    Depending on the weather.

    You can also find me
    Playing darts and pool
    Daily, in the Blue Sphinx

    Where they’ll put your car-
    Keys behind the bar
    If you’ve had too much to drink
    Smoke
    Sniff

    Or if you’re having a bad trip
    On a dodgy pill the chaps
    From the project tower blocks
    Have been knocking out.

    I’m very reliable
    When I’m not on drugs
    High as a kite on crack or smack
    Which if I’m honest at the minute’s erm..quite a bit.

    I’ve got special OAP rates
    Great discounts for schoolchildren
    And I do private tuition
    In the comfort of your own home.

    I don’t smoke
    Wash
    Drive
    Or perform live in situations
    Which are non PC -

    Tolerate discrimination against minorities
    Majorities
    Or, any section of society
    Who feel threatened
    By the pernicious influence
    Of poets who are shit; like my ex,-mate

    Peter. He’s got no grasp of meter,
    His line breaks aren’t that great,
    his rhyme schemes are very weak
    And his central conceits, are crap.

    We’ve not been speaking
    Since he robbed my midweek spot
    Down the job-club
    After the co-ordinator of the poetry workshop
    And me, had had a falling out
    About, the best way to teach
    The unemployed of West Drayton how to rhyme
    Effectively
    When they’re on an interview for a job

    Bobbie laarrghhh.

  • On May 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Hi Mike, just got back from a trip and saw your comment on the faits divers pertaining to the American Hybrid anthology. Here it is (and yes, *Works and Days of the feneon collective,* with an introduction that reveals previously unknown details of the group’s brief and deeply troubled history will appear later this year, in a joint production by Skanky Possum and Effing presses):

    >Where does poetry stop and sociology begin (or vice versa)? With the figure on its cover of two silhouettes forming a vase (or vice versa), the anthology titled American Hybrid has appeared.

    • On May 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm Michael Theune wrote:

      That’s the one! Thanks, Kent–and so glad to know that the Faits Divers are set to (re)appear– Cheers, Mike

  • On May 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm thomas brady wrote:

    I’ll have whatever Desmond Swords is having, please.

  • On May 9, 2009 at 6:24 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “A food critic doesn’t judge food that’s half-digested in someone’s belly.”

    Thomas:

    I’m sober now.

    I think you’ve misread my poem. (Hope you’re not a critic.) :-)

    The operative (no pun intended) line in my poem is “Later that night, after his murder,”. The coroner, and his subsequent dissection, are incidental, mere aftermath. The critic is not the coroner…he’s the killer. My point is that a bad review can deep-six a career…and a life. With so many books, why bother with one somebody has already told you was terrible? But I contend that any opinion of poetry is subjective. What one hates another may love. However, one bad review may deny all those others who might have loved it the opportunity to find out. Call it contemporary laziness. Who has time? We seek recommendations.

    Franz Wright’s famous response to Mr. Logan probably saved his career, even boosted it. He did not lie down and just die. This is because poets are always smarter than critics. If not, well, then they’d be critics, wouldn’t they?

    GBF

    • On May 9, 2009 at 10:12 pm thomas brady wrote:

      Gary,

      The critic is the murderer?

      That’s more hyperbolic and self-pitying still.

      This is the Romantic myth that a criticism killed Keats. Keats’ poetic reputation was in fact helped by some very real and politically motivated attacks.

      You see, I think you’re missing the point when you say that opinions of poetry are “subjective.” Sure, every point of view is “subjective.”

      One person’s opinion of a poem will always be “subjective.” But this fact, which I grant, does not alter the fact of scientific and political progress. It does not alter the fact that new knowledge is produced by a gradual accumulation and working out of subjective experiences. Even if we grant that all opinions of poems are “subjective,” this does not alter the fact that some “subjective” opinions are stronger than others, and that certain opinions prevail (beyond our own subjective opinions) to create that knowledge which shapes the accumulation of new knowledge in the future. The good critics are aware of this. Between subjective opinion and objective truth is a ladder–surely you would not keep poets at the bottom of the ladder?

      Look at it this way, Gary: when you argue (or write poetry) you do not argue your point BECAUSE it is your subjective opinion, but for OTHER reasons, reasons which you feel support your point. Subjectivity is only the container. You lean too much on it.

      Thomas

  • On May 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hello Brady.

    What i’m on is nought but the eighth year of studying bardic law and practice, practice, practice, fail, fail better and eventually end up on the podium talking sense because one took the very long route in which prize, winner, media hype and what is in essence, irrelevance – played no part in the decision one took to become a bore who could bore and ignore the abundence of goading we inevitably recieve when taking up the craft of Poetry.

    The very word itself, Poetry, in English is very simple to understand and handle. It roots etymologically to the Greek word for making.

    However, in other poetry traditions and cultures, the Irish culture for example poetry in Gaelic is dan, which is a bit trickier.

    The Gaelic word for Poetry is dán, which ultimately routes to the Tuatha Dé Dannan, which translates to “the people of the goddess Danu.”

    Danu being a pan European river goddess, the Danube, the Don (etc) and many more route to. Ultimately routing to the primordial Hindu water goddess Dānu, of the Rigveda texts (compund word meaning praise-verse knowledge) the Vedic Sanskrit hymns and one of the four canonical texts of the Vedas, some of its verses still recited at spiritual events and among the worlds oldest Religious texts in continued use, since time immemorial, chaunted at the waters edge.

    The English word poem however, is far less challenging intellectually, to situate with confidence and clarity, as its etymology is simple. As stated it is from a Greek word, poiēma, from poiein – to create

    The definition of dán however, is a tad more complicated. complex and dare one say it, sophisticated than your common class no nonsense poem, that does exactly what it says on the tin.

    Because Gaelic poetry began around the time or shortly before Old English, and has a proto cross-over language of runic-like ogham that was in use by the poetic class in a then druidic Ireland, during the pre-to-literate penumbra of the 3 – 5C when the switch from oral to literate culture was occuring.

    Indeed, there are ancient texts on the nuts and bolts of poetry, only recently translated which are immensley significant and vastly important, and whose existence (though you may find it impossible to believe) not even seriously significant senior (and junior) poets composing today at the top prophetic torque major poets are traditionally associated with – are actually aware of. Gasp ! shock ! wow !!

    Anyway, dán means a bit more than poetry as it means in English, as this definition shows:

    “..dán – poetry, gift-talent-vocation, fate-destiny (“a man can’t drown whose dán’s to be hanged”)”

    So a poem in this tradition, is also, a lifetime from first to final breath. The poem of our life.

    Anyway, gassing over at a senior colleagues online lounge where the sole purpose is attempting eloquent expression, to speak your soul so to speak, as in be yourself, where there is little in the way of artist ego-clashes because the language the laureate there makes, stands on its own two feet and unlike most of his peers, he has carved out a spot online as the most senior (what a young buck called Tom Chivers terms) digital native.

    Most 60 year old poets are not keen to spam away online, but this chap is and I go there to work at being myself, digging all the time in search of reality, rock bottom ID, who i am. And i discovered last week, that i am actually a royal person myself (yeah i know, sounds mad, but it’s true) due to my father’s family who were at one point four hundred years ago, the most powerful royal family in Ireland, before the line ending with the removing of the 15′th Earl Gerald Desmond’s head from his body and which ended up spiked on Tower Bridge.

    Now you may think it’s a fairy story, but it actually isn’t, it is all there in black and white, written out and clear proof that I am as blue blooded as Hal and Liam.
    Even better, Edmund Spenser ended up in Kilcolman castle, where he wrote the Faerie Queene, after his Present View prose trieste which argued for the “pacification” of Ireland by a scorched earth policy, to remove Irish culture and get them all being English.

    Kilcolman castle was the Earl of Desmond’s prior to this dynasty ending, and Spenser got it in the immediate aftermath of the Desmond Rebellions which ended with earl Gerald’s head and body parting ways.

    So my poem, dán, fate etc, means I am the first royal poet to know it, since, ooh, i dunno, Dame Mandy? Which is nie to know, that the dream of poetry can come true, if we beleive our own song, listen to our own bird and chirp, chirp, dig and flit, boil and druidical knowledge, imbas foronsai, ask WB Logan – yo, or Boberto P, or anyone yiz wunt, how comes they dunno ’bout what one does here in Kilmainham, a year eight cli or anruth, hey, hey. Tell me that one Brady me arl mucker?

  • On May 9, 2009 at 9:35 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Hello Desmond,

    Now you’re making sense!

    “Kilcolman castle was the Earl of Desmond’s prior to this dynasty ending, and Spenser got it in the immediate aftermath of the Desmond Rebellions which ended with earl Gerald’s head and body parting ways.”

    You’re an Irish lad, then?

    Funny, my dad, born in Richmond, VA of English ancestry, was telling me a story just today about his adult ed poetry teacher who is Irish Catholic. She didn’t like that my father praised the Rupert Brooke “forever England” poem. “It’s not a pro-war poem!” my father insisted to the class. Oh those English are so clever.

    I had an older gentleman in a class I taught on Poe once who loved everything Irish; he used to say things like, “Did you know the Beatles were Irish?” He said America was Ireland’s revenge against England.

    I’m intrigued by your ancestry; all I’ve got is a connection to Zachary Taylor (d. 1850) who scholars dug up suspecting he was poisoned; Poe (d. 1849) has been examined for the same. America was another name for an old fight, especially the period leading up to the Civil War, when Britain and France were wary of the world’s upstart. For a long time there was a feeling among many that the U.S. was not going to make it, that she would go back to Britain as a colony.

    It wasn’t all that long ago when America was David to Britain’s Goliath.

    Am I “royal” because I’m related to Zachary Taylor?

    Am I less of a “poet” because of “poet’s” etymology in English.

    English has many languages as its source.

    What sort of political animal makes claims for a “poetic class?” A fascist? A royal? A communist?

    I don’t like the old just because it’s old. The past exists now.

    Thomas

  • On May 10, 2009 at 5:56 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hello Thomas.

    I was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire, 12 miles from the centre of Liverpool, a mile from the border with Merseyside.

    Both my parents are Irish, Jeremiah Desmond and Pauline Swords. My father lived in England till five, then Scotland till ten, then Mayo till 14 then Macroom till 19 then Liverpool where he met my mum.

    My father’s father Cornelius Desmond was from Macroom in Cork, and his mother Winfired Masterson, was from Achill island in far West Mayo.

    Mu mother’s from Dublin and moved to Liverpool at 13. Both her parents, John Swords and Sarah English, were from Bohola in far West Mayo (population 250).

    Bohola was were Olympian Martin Sheridan was born (1881-1918). Sheridan won 9 Olympic medals (5 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze) for his adopted country, the USA, in discus-throwing, high and long jumps, shot-putt and pole-vaulting at St. Louis (1904), Athens (1906) and London (1908). (These figures include 2 gold and 3 silver medals won in Athens which was not regarded as an “official” Olympics.)

    Bohola is known for turning out successful business people and the place the O’Dwyers emigrated to New York from. New York City Mayor (1946-50) William (1890-1964), who was later President Truman’s Ambassador to Mexico.

    Paul O’Dwyer (born Bohola 1907 – d. Goshen, New York 1998), American lawyer, liberal Democratic politician, and champion of the underdog with an international reputation for civil liberties, served as President of New York City Council.

    ~

    I dunno if “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor was actually royal in the European sense, as he claimed lineage to William Brewster, the Mayflower Pilgrim preacher and colonist leader who was the son of the estte baliff of Scrooby Manor in North Nottinghamshire, and a possession of the Archbishop of York.

    But in the American sense, he’s as royal as it gets. You being realted to a founding Pilgrim, makes you Your Highness in my book.

    And no, i do not think you less of a poet because of the words etymology in English. This would be an outrageous claim to make. My own area of research is just one of those anomolies.

    It is only now, with the world wide web, that one can relatively easily, locate information which prior to Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau inventing it out of thin air 20 years ago, meant fidning out the information pertaining to ancient poetic cultures such as Ireland’s, was only for the very dedicated or the very rich. All the

    The bardic tradition ran for 1200 years in print in Ireland and Scotland and a bit less than that in Wales. There was a set and definite course of study one could undertake, which rant for 12 years and went from grade one focloc (sapling, poet-beginner) to grade seven ollamh (poetry professor) and so this is a very relevant area for any poet to have a legitimate curiosity and interest in.

    However, because it got more or less forgotten over the last few hundred years, for various political and cultural reasons related to English culture ruthlessly asserting itself over the native Gaelic ones in Britain, the truth of the bardic course has more or less been forgotten and now, no one is that interested.

    My whole reasoning when i decided i wanted to specialise in poetry, shortly after converting to writing at 34 and falling into a Writing Studies and Drama degree at Edge Hill University in my home town of Ormskirk, Lancashire – was this.

    I want to be a poet.

    OK.

    But the problem is, in the poetry world (more a village of comepting bores really) there is no agreement on what Poetry even is, and there being no formal qualification and agreement, how can i do it in such a way, as no one can poo poo my dream and say, you are not a *real* poet, type of carry on. People like WB Logan sneering and being a wise-mouth. How can i do it so even the top gobs have to bend before me, or at least treat me as an equal?

    Well, i thought, what is the one tradition which was more or less real Poetry?

    Bardic.

    But no one knows about that.

    And this was the craic Brady. Imagine, imagine i thought, having the rest of my life ahead of me, i have just started writing at 34, fell into it by accident, last roll of the dice for a man for whom nothing had worked out, never became the success i always wanted, dreamt of, Steven Spielberg never came to the ice cream parlour, building sites and burger vans i worked to spot my talent and whisk me off to La La land – but i am so thankful i am finally falling into what at that point felt, this is mean to be – and imagine, i thought, learning what the real bards did?

    No-one, no smart wise ass is gonna be able to freeze you out at the reading, say *oh yes but of course, I’m po-mo and if you look as this that and a million and one ifs buts and maybes i am making up, then of course darling, poetry is whatever erm, sorry whatsisname, Dickhead? no, no, he’s just a faux poet, not like us, what, what owl bean?

    So Thomas my mate, that was the gig.

    Three years studying under Robert Sheppard, heir to Britains only real Concrete poet, Bob Cobbing, the official course, beginning with Pound’s ABC and ending with Bernsteins, I Don’t Take Voice Mail, and all the while, outside the course, 40% of my learning running along the ancient gear.

    But it’s a long hard road and traditionally, it was only in the eighth year, when you hit grade six Anruth (great stream) one could go public. It takes a long time to make sense of the material. 350 stories in the corpus, 250 primary, 100 secondary, only 200 primary left. All sorts of smoke and mirror, double and triple names of the same characters and the full coprpus of Irish myth to get familiar with.

    And all leading to imbas forosnai, the extemporised compositional method whereby the act of writing is like the final scene in Columbo, as we write we work out the score and knowledge is pulled out from within, the study, all the stuff that’s been going in, starts to join up and return outward on the page.

    A long road Your Highness and lots to speak of.

  • On May 10, 2009 at 11:31 am thomas brady wrote:

    Desmond,

    I am glad I have your love, and with yours, I hope to learn all you care to share on the Bardic tradition.

    Because I love you, I shall get right down to it.

    At random, then:

    There is a certain ‘once the genie is out of the bottle…’ about all this. Once guerilla warfare became the norm, marching in straight lines as the Red Coats had done just would not do. The ancient tongues abound in spondees; you can’t be Horace in English even if you study Horace for a thousand years.

    It finally comes down to common sense v. scholarship.

    Or, if you wish, the democratic impulse, the people seeking happiness v. tyranny, the seeking of power that would selfishly (or for mere whim) control people for its own ends.

    Art and religion, just like inventions of science, can make people happy, or ruin them. The religion that provides faith can be the religion that starts wars. We all know how scientific invention can help or harm. Art, likewise, is two-edged. Art from and for the people is joyous; art tainted with scholarship becomes divisive, tyrannous and poisonous.

    The scholar Ezra Pound–and beyond all else, this is what he supposed himself to be–took poetry away from the people and made it institutional; he took it from common sense and joy and handed it over, bound and gagged, to the high priests of tyranny.

    To read Pound’s 1929 essay, ‘How To Read’ is like breathing the stuff of a vaccum cleaner spewing in reverse.

    Can anyone peruse this essay and take it even slightly seriously?

    Today, we live in the ruins of Pound.

    The first order of business, as I see it, is to go back (not a terribly great distance) and clean up his mess.

    Thomas

  • On May 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm Terreson wrote:

    A good description of the bardic tradition, Desmond Sword. Its example of the rigors involved in the training is to the point. And when you think about it a course of twelve years study before working in original verse is not that great a stretch of time anyway. And even by then there are no guarantees of accomplishment, right? Not, at least, without the seizure-vision of the oak king.

    Now if you can trace your lineage to Taliesin I’ll surely stop and listen.

    Terreson

  • On May 10, 2009 at 5:45 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    The (creative) Writing industry is a hybrid business, from writing the books to supplying the bodies who appear on the factory floor to infuse (or not) the neophyte writers with a belief that they can achieve their dream of becoming a real-life living breathing walking talking Writer, just like the bod at the front of the class with the keys and secrets to this most misunderstood and slippery of guilds.

    One in which we (as Robert Graves wrote in his first Oxford poetry lecture) may put up our:

    “..brass plate, so to speak, without the tedious preliminaries of attending university, reading the required books and satisfying examiners…responsible to no General Council, and acknowledging no personal superior, can never be unfrocked, cashiered, disbarred, struck off the register, hammered on ‘Change or flogged round the fleet if s/he is judged guilty of unpoetic (writerly) conduct. The only limit legally set on his (and her) activities are the acts relating to libel, pornography, treason, and the endangerment of public order.”

    ~

    The sense v scholarship binary, in essence is correct, but it is one of those things which, whilst encapsulating the essential divide between slammer and Princeton Poetry Professor, is condicive to causing division and carries a negative charge.

    So, instead of there being just poetry, inclusive, everyone knowing what it is, we have the wine and cheese brigades and the spit and sawdust mobs, scholar v sense, in the respect that those starting with an open mic slammer ethos think:

    Just do it. Write poetry and recite it at any chance. Sense.

    The wine and cheese scholars however, start from the premise that Poetry is about the Word, Logo, in a Book, the bible, the Holy Word of God (themself speaking for a god within who, because they are so clever and Poetry’s a one person gender-neutral sport of impeccable rightness, fitting and befitting of the ancient gods who gifted us it – naturally, to speak of this very very serious and important topic, one must sip wine, intonate and enunciate with immense precision, from (prefferably) a pulpit (reading in church) as a poet-Priest, not as a drunken slammer lashing out the logos and giving it socks in a dingy basement boozer, where hecklers from the common mob with smart wise-cracks not showing due deference to the word of the Poetry god/s the scholars have as their hand to draw in a flock at the poker game of showing what God says through us to whoever’s listening.

    I think that because, as Graves states, there is no across-the-board and shared agreement of the very definition of poet, poem and Poetry, thus the binary-trad SoQ and Real Poets of the avant po po-mo crazee white space merchants Ron da Silly mahn represents, in what is perfect poetic event. That Ron is the poet who fronts this end of what essentially is one whole spectrum, whilst his sworn enemies of promise, the Motions and Duffy’s of this village, front the other, Romantic hango’er the stars of yesteryear, trying to grab Homer for their own badge, being deeply intellectual and very sucessful poets selling more books to the philistines reared on A Team reality shows fronted by Simon and the gang, picking winners, setting the frame and all in all, as Dublin poet and playwright Fintan O’Higgins has it in a very witty article about the (then) contemporary poetry scene in the birth-place of Joyce, here in the (Shit Creek Review) Poetry in Dublin article, at one of the sexier online rags run by Australian poet Paul Stevens and with a contributing editor, the Gloucester poet Angela France, who was shortlisted for this year’s Strokestown competition. This is the Shit Creek Review Blog.

    He articulates to the general reader in razor sharp wit, the very binary Brady describes, using the local of Dublin, to speak of the underlying universal theme it mirrors.

    “There is no shortage of button-holers in pubs only too eager to spew their creations at you, and you will have no difficulty finding a room in a library where a polite gathering of poetry-lovers spend a pleasant hour trying not to cough too audibly on the dust that whispers from the reader’s mouth. (The distinction between the types of poetry available is one of atmosphere rather than quality; in both camps the overall experience is like trying to find a few plump raisins in a bowl of rabbit-droppings, but this is normal, I think.) It is rare, however, to find a forum where the general merriment of the drunken idiots meets the intellectual rigour of the dried-up academics; but it is not impossible.”

    The thing is, both sides have the raisons and rabbit droppings in equal measure, and what poetry exists in either camp, does so without the scaffold of any theory, coming from either Pound or Homer, as it just is. This is the most important thing.

    Both sides, not hanging round with each other, relying only on gossip, rumour and whatnot to demonise one another with, hence the artificial binaries, SoQ v linguistically innovative crazee bald heads.

    Amiri Baraka, in an interview i first read five years ago, in Djali Dialogue with Amiri Baraka at Black Collegian.com, sums up the basic three-point manifesto levels of his own Poetic, which most other poets also have in the sense, Pounds ABC, Heaney’s Wordsworth owl-calling in the woods metaphor, also exactly the same as Baraka, expressed differently, but the poetic intelligence, the real load, the genuine Poet, plain for all to hear and know.

    Now, i know Baraka is not everyone’s fave Poet, but the man, rightly or wrongly (rightly really), is not only one of the last people standing of what went on in the Village with Al and Ginsey, Jack and the chaps, but also in a position not unlike Yeats, in the respect that he was the spokespoet of his community in a time when they were attaining an escape from servitude dressed up as some natural moral civilised order *whitey* had conned himself into accepting as reasonable, Slavery, coz, well, that’s what people can get like, innit?

    See, there are levels. Can you understand the levels of what knowledge is? The first level of knowledge is perception. Perception is nothing but a sponge. Everything you are around, you pick it up. You might not even know it, but your mind is just picking up stuff like a blotter. The second level is rationalization, you actually name it. Oh, that was this. But the highest form of knowledge is use. For example, I can say I know about the piano. I know all kind of stuff about the piano, about music, but then they say: can you play? I say, oh, no I can’t play.

    ~

    Poetry in its current understanding is not unlike the shadow in Plato’s cave, the reality of it 9as i understand it to be) is that because modern English (language) poetry started with on-the-make courtiers in Tudor England, writing for a King or Queen, starting from scratch, looking to 6C BC Greece as the ultimate poetic template (2000 years dead and 3000 miles distant) rather than going to Wales and better still Tudor-times Gaelic Ireland, learning the language and seeing how that (at that point) 1100 year in print tradition that linked to druidical practice – was rigged up; the clever courtiers wanting only to serve King and country (and makes lots of lovely lolly) decided – no.

    No, that 1200 years-in-print tradition is all fake, not like the new one we are going to invent from scratch, out of 2000 year old info coming into this new and exciting print-world (the equivalent of the online paradigm in Tudor times) in a way which gives us the clearest picture yet of Homer and Aristotle and Socrates and Plato.

    And as Baraka continues

    “You can conceive all kinds of things and give them names, but of that myriad of perceptions and rationales, how much of it can you use? A lot of stuff you do that is reaching out is really you trying to clarify stuff for yourself.
    essentially both sides are right and wrong”

    ~

    Genie out the bottle, but only a mirror of what’s already happened, after all, modern English poetry’s only a babe in arms, 500 years, not even half way of a tradition all but forgotten.

    The music of what happens, poetry, life, Art.

    • On May 10, 2009 at 9:27 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

      Desmond:

      “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
      Wm. Shkpr.

      .
      Oh, and Desmond, me Liverpool lad…I once accused you of being English and you protested mightily, presenting me with all the lines of your glorious Irish pedigree. But you lied to me.

      I am not Irish…I was born in the United States.

      And YOU are not Irish, either, despite your delusions to the contrary…you were born in (ugh…spit) England. YOU ARE ENGLISH!

      Yar what ch’are, Des. learn to live with it.

      GBF

      P.S. Wasn’t it the Earls of Kildare (i.e., the Fitzgeralds) who actually removed the head from that 15th Earl Gerald of Desmond in Cork?

      Erin go Bragh!

      Limey!!!!! :-)

  • On May 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Hello again, Desmond,

    I like the Write & Recite pub game. It reminds me of Shakespeare.

    You’ve got a broad cross-section audience including rowdies, you’ve got a deadline, and your audience gives you five things they want:

    1. Give us a story of an English ruler
    2. Don’t offend the current ruler
    3. Entertain the rowdies
    4. Elevate the language
    5. Show sympathy for more than one point of view.

    It doesn’t really matter what the five things are, so long as they are challenging and they are things the audience gives you.

    The reason ‘writing to order’ and ‘writing to a deadline’ and ‘writing for a complex challenge’ work is that Leisure isn’t good for poetry, nor is monolithic opinion, nor is disdain for the rowdies.

    As for Dublin’s fuck v. no-fuck, my advice is fuck all schools. Don’t trust divisions of any kind in Letters; movements, trends, schools, scholarly or street, view them all with suspicion; welcome rather than reject; reject the schisms & the one-sided fanatacisms; assimilation is the only technique, with the well-ordered nor the random rejected, so that every school rejects you but the mass who is going about its business applauds.

    I have no faith in Allen Ginsberg or the Beats. Poetry isn’t going to make men free or give women rights, or any of those things. Edna Millay did more for women simply by writing as well as she did, than have all feminist poetries combined.

    Don’t stumble into poetry. Make a list of what you want to do.

    Poetry is not prose reduced, or William Shakespeare chopped into William Carlos Williams; poetry is prose expanded, prose made luxurious (and luxury does not mean difficulty).

    I saw some humorous greeting cards today geared towards middle-aged middle brows: “Feng Shui is Chinese for ‘move your husband’s crap into the garage’” and “Latte is French for ‘you paid too damn much for that cup of coffee’” and “Middle age is when your hair goes from grey to black” and “I try a lot of diets because I go hungry on just one.” The latter reminded me of the fad-hungry Ezra Pound and his numerous schools. My final rule is: More Poe, less Pound. What school did Poe belong to? None. Bingo!

    Yours,

    Thomas

  • On May 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Jeez, Thomas…climb down.

  • On May 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hello Fiksgerald and Brady.

    You sound very very (un)happy my love, and have took it on yourself to..erm, offer encouragement by attempting to tell me who i am. Thank you very much, can i pay you for this kindness, Sir Fitzo?

    i was born in England, you are right, to two Irish parents (one Dublin another Achill), three grandparents from west Mayo and one from Macroom, which makes me what i am and what we term in front of the Irish proper, a plastic paddy, and you are right, i am English born, whose spirit is 100% Irish, all those who made me.

    But more than this, i am a human being first and anything else, second. Did you know Fitzgerald, tyhat there is such a thing as dual citizenship. Mine is Irish, not English.

    Your blog-blurb states your identity as misanthropic (taoist poet), which explains the English-racist tenor in your woefully (in)offensive post.

    As a self-declared misanthrope, who is zip to me and i you, are hardly the most suitable to define my identity, now are you lover?

    you say i lied and yet bring no proof.

    Please do, because at the moment, you’re a misanthropic racist ranter in the eyes of the silent Reader here, not me.

    Born eighty miles from Dublin, 12 miles North of the one and only city in England with a ward (Liverpool Scotland road) to elect an Irish Parliamentary Party MP to the English Commons: Athlone journalist, T.P. O’Connor – on the ticket of Home Rule in the 1918 election.

    He was returned as an independant Irish Nationalist MP in 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1929 general elections and became the longest serving MP by the year of his death in 1929, “Father of the House of Commons”, with 49 years 215 days in, batting for the Irish.

    There is a bust of him on Fleet Street London, with the words:

    “His pen could lay bare the bones of a book or the soul of a statesman in a few vivid lines.”

    ~

    What could be a very very very serious libel on me as a bore who loves to gas bardic lore, if the text you refer to has been lied about on your part – has not been produced.

    Did i say i was born in Ireland, please Fitzgerald?

    If so, please link me to it or produce it here, and if not, apologise immediately please, and say you are very very sorry for impugning me on the basis of what i have no control over. Where i am born, and also, praise my writing please.

    What i do control, is my tongue, and you are still learning, because if you knew anything of what i do, you would say please and thank you, not insult a person, a fellow poetical mind in the body of a man who just happened to enter this world in Ormskirk, Lancashire, and who you are jealous of, it looks to me.

    Apologise, and i will forget the matter.

    “Brevity is the soul of wit” – is it really, oh, right.

    Wm. Shkpr. whose that, warm shack prince?

    ~

    Oh, and Fitzgerald, you American misanthrope, i once thought of you as being humanly warm towards me, but you have a real beef with me as an english born Irish person. Why?

    You laughably protest, mightily – presenting me with all the lines of your very limted knowledge on the Kildare Irish pedigree, and not Irish, born in the United States, 300 miles distant, you say (or rather shout YOU, coz you’re really passionate on the subject of moi) that i am not Irish, i have delusions to the contrary and on the basis of being born in (ugh…spit) England, say “YOU ARE ENGLISH!” – ranted to me by you who knows diddly squat about one, Gary love.

    You then say, in a short one line, offering me the wisdom of your misanthropic mind:

    Yar what ch’are, Des. learn to live with it.

    GBF

    great big fat fucker from Offaly? what is termed here, BIFFO?

    Get over it Fitzgerald. The Earls of Kildare were the ones implimenting English policies, but the 15th Earl of Desmond you refer to, was spotted at dusk and slain at dawn in Galnagenty, the 11′th November 1583 by Daniel O’Kelly – a kern for the Clan Moriarty – who rushed a cabin where the forebear Earl’s party lay. All escaped but an old man, a woman, and boy.

    O’Kelly aimed a sword blow and half severed an arm on the old man, who cried: “I am the Earl of Desmond: spare my life”.

    O’Kelly cut off his head and sent a skull of my Fitzgerald blood (for 1000 pieces of silver) to London where it got spiked on the bridge.

    This “I” demands an apology from you, and the return of my lands and title with immediate effect or I’ll keep you a bondsman in poverty till next years holiday in Scarborough at Summer time – with critical death the distinct possibility, should you jump from a cliff where I unlock.
    an intricate song of the seagull whose wings ring in simple melody, a true, kind and continually lilting lullaby lifting the dream of love.

  • On May 10, 2009 at 11:53 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    Hello Thomas.

    Yeah, all of the above is bang on the nail.

    All we can do, is our own thing, and plough our own path and track along within alone to the centre of ourself, i suppose.

    I try to stay out of spats, because who really cares about it all, all this Poe this, Pound that. Pound was mentally ill and his hubris and begrudgery got the better of him after he had discovered that Yeats was the Irish poet who knew his trade and that the magic he went to him for, was not gonna transfer on the strenght of being his pal.

    Pound is great, or shite, i am easy on it, will agree with both positions equally because i am not that passionate about him. He was a very important force, but his work is too dense for most, and i think this is shifted him into the ranty life, that his first book was the one most remember him for, apart from the cantos composed in a cage.

    Depending on the bore, and whim really, i can gas on and say, yeah Pound is the most important poet of blah blah blah and have a giggle making the words appear how i want. I can say, nah, Pound’s a phoney, utter tripe, no talent, merely the manifestation of mental illness, his work has one or two interesting specimens, but he is overated because his poetry being mediocre overall, this allows the mediocre poets to rant on about him being God.

    Anyone who is after giving it the holy roller in po-faced pose, unless they are talking of a real tradition which can be proven, like the bardic one, i take what they say with a pinch of salt, because if they know that much, how come they know zip about the 1200 years in print tradition of Ireland?

    Because most are talking through their hole, i suspect.

  • On May 11, 2009 at 7:23 am thomas brady wrote:

    Desmond,

    You and I are alike because we know of treasures which the world does not understand. I know how Poe is misunderstood, you, the 1200 years of written Irish, bardic tradition.

    To keep myself sane I’m learning how a lot of things are not understood–John Crowe Ransom and the Modernist scam, ‘man, you should have seen them kicking Edna Millay,’ etc which relate to how Poe is misunderstood and learning is a joy and I’m still learning. But you have a harder task, I think, because Poe is right there–even though ‘they’ don’t see him–all you have to do is buy his books or go to his Baltimore Society website and it’s all there.

    But this bardic tradition of yours. Where is it? What is it? How does it tie in? What of Cathay?

    And then you always have scholars like Pound who will throw this in your face:

    “certain professors who have invested all their intellectual capital i.e., spent a lot of time on some perfectly dead period, don’t like to admit they’ve been sold, and they haven’t the courage to cut a loss” –Pound, “How To Read”

    By the way this is the anniversary of the Panic of 1837. see Jill Lepore’s damning of Poe in the New Yorker.

    Thomas

  • On May 11, 2009 at 9:55 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Dear Mr. Swords:

    Allow me to apologize, as requested. No offense was intended because I share, and so understand, your pride in being Irish (a couple of hundred years notwithstanding). Just having a larf, as they say.

    I guess I have two apologies, in fact, because I’m also sorry that you don’t have a sense of humor. I see no reason to call me names just because I was teasing you a little. You sound a mite puffed-up to me. I find it difficult to take very seriously those who take themselves so seriously.

    And please don’t ever call me a racist again. I don’t know about England, but that sort of thing is taken very seriously over here. Talk about libel!

    I am not very fond of humanity, I admit, but I do not differentiate between ethnic groups, nationality or race. I hate all of you human bastards.

    Sincerely,
    Great Big Fat Fucker from Offaly

  • On May 11, 2009 at 10:50 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Here’s a little poem for you.

    .
    Irish

    .
    My family’s been gone from Ireland
    for at least two hundred years.
    Many generations in America,
    many pioneers. Many who worked hard
    for every buck. But the only Irish left
    in me is my name and a poem,
    a fear of ghosts
    and some damned sorry luck.

    .
    Copyright 2008 – SOFTWOOD-Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

  • On May 11, 2009 at 11:16 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Thanks very much Thomas.

    Being this side of the puddle, i cannot soeak with any authority on American literary culture, but having been a lurker, looking in through an online perspective for five or so years since leaving college clutching a piece of paper from the academy which qualified one fit for a potential career in full time pretending, and the Poetry component of which related to 20C American poetry — i can but conjure from the swirl within my mind, only provisional scenarios based on what text has crossed before the eye.

    When i was studying the lineage of Free Verse and the pre-cursing agents relating to the birth of Modernism, Poe occupied a unique position. Whilst not rated in his home land, the French went a big wow on him, and i always wondered how much of this will be down the talent of his translator/s?

    But Poe only had the Poetic everyone else did (and still, do), ultimately 6C BC Greece as the time-frozen window into talking of Poetry.

    Watching the spats from this end, mainly through Silliman, who has just returned from his first reading-trip to England and is waxing lyrical about the po-mo carzees in Bury, Lancashire who are working *at the height of their powers* at the pulpit – i have to admit i find it all very comical, but far less limp than the British poetry scene in general.

    You people don’t mind having a good row, and there is a robustness and able-bodied quality to the chat, the back and forth. Also, the po-mo in America is in a far healthier state because of the huge scale of the university led practitioners working in this form.

    In Britain, since what came to be called, the British Poetry Revival, which had its high point when Eric Mottram wrestled control of the Poetry Society’s rag, Poetry Review, for a few years in the mid-seventies, in what the top bore at the British Arts Council called “a treacherous assualt on British poetry” and let the mad-heads affiliated to Bob Cobbing’s Writer’s Workshop, use the photocopier and stationary to disseminate their DIY ethos – the Linquistically Innovative school have been a slightly embittered minority bemoaning the fix that favours oxbridge drips being feted at 21 as the new Messiahs, and who inevitably go off the boil by middle age.

    ~

    As regards the bardic tradition, it is literally only now, in the last few years with the rise of the world wide web, that all the information can be pulled up and re-configured back into a semblance of something half-understandable.

    When i started with poet Robert Sheppard, who is the Writing Professor at Ormskirk’s Edge Hill University in my home town, i only had instinct to go on. There is no central repository of material relating to the 12 year bardic course, just interested individuals scattered throughout the world, in all sorts of guises, at a host of various places, like pagan sites, wicca sites, the odd poet and Celtic scholars at universities – publishing the relevant material.

    I started blind, knowing nothing much of Irish history and just types Irish History into google and worked from there. The first thing to hit you, is how much of it there is and how it is more a less a living continuum from the earliest Irish Mythology, though compared to Grece it is very compact, and it has a unity lacking in Greece, because it is an island that ran uninterrupted by the calamity of European affairs, until four hundred years ago, so the culture developed without much linguistic intrusion, and those invaders who did come, up till the 16C, more or less assimilated into the culture (with a bit of argy bargy here and there. The Vikings and so forth)

    At first, taking on the myth of Ireland, is like banging one’s head against a seive, and i suppose in truth, you would need some pretty strong inner adddiction to keep it up, because it is not the type of system which reveals its workings after even three and four years full time study and practice. Not having Irish, everything being read through translation, the problem at first are the names of the various protaganists, Ogma the Celtic god of Poetry and who the earliest pre-cursor proto-script writing, ogham, is named after, Cuchulainn the Ulster Appollo, Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) the poet-warrior whose tale of poetic attainment in the Boyhood Deeds strand of the tale of his life, encapsualte the essence of how the Irish bardic tradition views the acquiring of mystical wisdom.

    Basically there are 350 tales a bard had to learn, 250 primary and 100 secondary (secondary ones were never written down and passed on orally between ollamh and student, only after year seven) and of which just over 200 have survived in print.

    In Irish myth, there are four and five mythological peoples who came to the island, prior to the fifth or sixth group, the Milesians, who the annals state came around 1500 BC, and from whom modern Irish people claim descent.

    There are four strands to the myth, the Mythological Cycle (as you can read at the link) detailing seudohistorical chronicles of the history of the island and stories of the four and five races of gods and their battles and doings with each other.

    The Ulster Cycle, which details the goings on of the Ulster heroes headed by Cuchulain and their main foe the Connacht crew heads by Maeve of Connacht.

    The Fenian Cycle or Fiannaidheacht (modern Irish: Fiannaíocht), which details the life of Finn McCool and his antics.

    The Historical Cycle or Cycle of Kings, listing the order of all the supernaturally royal personages of note who rules as kings and queens who appear in the other three cycles.

    9– Fir Bolg High Kings – which Seathrún Céitinn (Geoffrey Keating: b. 1569 – d. 1664) has running

    1514- 1477 BC,

    and the Annals of the Four Masters (1616 AD) put as in power from

    1934-1897 BC.

    ~

    7 Tuatha Dé Danann High Kings

    Geoffry K has being in power from 1477-1287 BC

    The Four Masters 1897-1700 BC

    ~

    105 Milesian High Kings

    Geoffrey K – 1287 BC – 8O AD

    Four Masters – 1700 BC – 76 AD

    ~

    22 Goidelic High Kings (this is when fictiona nd fact begin to merge)

    Geoffrey K – 80 – 448 AD

    Four Masters – 76 – 458 AD

    ~

    35 Semi-Historical High Kings (real figures, unsure of thier high king status)

    459 – 841 AD

    ~

    20 Historical High Kings

    846 – 1318

    ~

    So, a bard had to learn this two hundred list and know all the lineages, as part fo their duties, the primary one being to praise their patron and satirise those who offended them.

    This is just a tiny amount of the work involved, and as you see if you go the links, only now possible, to find this info and really, online Poetry which is exciting and all that because the new kids on the block, fresh to Poetry, have far more of a choice who to listen to now, in relation to the reality of all this guff about what Poetry is and aint.

    By showing the reality of the bardic corpus, they can be led to real Poetry and not have to listen to actoary bores droning on about their interpretation of what Homer was actually like.

    Logan was doing it again in an article i chanced on at Ron’s gaffe, and after 30 years life work, asking himself, what’s the use of poetry critics, and waffling bollix about the Greeks. The poor bore. A babe in arms gurgling fantastic sneery opinion, a very serious and redundant waffler, tell him, please.

    thank you very much.

  • On May 11, 2009 at 11:33 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Don’t worry about it my fellow Fitzgerald, lighten up, i’m only having a giggle too mate, and as L and O wrote on the cardboard sign in Montreal at the big hair day:

    Everybodies Talking Bagism
    Shagism Dragism Madism
    Ragism Tagism This-ism That-ism

    Minister
    Sinister
    Bannisters
    Cannisters
    Bishops
    Fishops
    Rabbis
    Popeyes
    Bye Byes

    All We Are Saying
    Is Give peace A Chance.

    ~

    grá agus síocháin

    (graw agus shee-a-kawn)

    love and peace

  • On May 11, 2009 at 1:31 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I prefer saoirse (see-orsha)

  • On May 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm noah freed wrote:

    Don’t you people have jobs?

  • On May 11, 2009 at 3:24 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    Who the hell’s computer do you think I’m using? I’m still on dial-up at home. :-)

  • On May 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    Travis et al,
    In my anapest researches I just came across this bit from the end of James Russell Lowell’s “Fables for Critics” which I am compelled to share. It’s a totally different take on the whole question of reviews, ie who needs them anyway?

    “My friends, in the happier days of the muse,
    We were luckily free from such things as reviews,
    Then naught came between with its fog to make clearer
    The heart of the poet to that of his hearer;
    Then the poet brought heaven to the people, and they
    Felt that they, too, were poets in hearing his lay;
    Then the poet was prophet, the past in his soul
    Pre-created the future, both parts of one whole;
    Then for him there was nothing too great or too small.
    For one natural deity sanctified all. . .”

  • On May 11, 2009 at 10:00 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Annie,

    Thanks for bringin’ in “A Fable for Critics” by James Lowell.

    I really don’t know why poets hate critics.

    Think of that famous phrase, Carp Diem: Criticize the Day.

    And why don’t people like revues? They are filled with song! I don’t get it.

    Poe reviewed “A Fable for Critics” (which called Poe ‘two-fifths sheer fudge’) and Mr. Lowell did not come off well.

    Poe found fault with Lowell’s anapests, and much else.

    Enjoy!

    Take it away, Mssr Poe:

    To show the general manner of the Fable, we quote a portion of what he says about Mr. Poe:

    Here comes Poe with his Raven, like Barnaby Rudge —
    Three-fifths of him genius, and two-fifths sheer fudge;
    Who talks like a book of iambs and pentameters,
    In a way to make all men of common sense d—n metres;
    Who has written some things far the best of their kind;
    But somehow the heart seems squeezed out by the mind.*

    * We must do Mr. L. the justice to say that his book was in press before he could have seen Mr. Poe’s “Rationale of Verse” published in this Magazine for November and December last. [This footnote appears at the bottom of column 1, page 191.]

    We may observe here that profound ignorance on any particular topic is always sure to manifest itself by some allusion to “common sense” as an all-sufficient instructor. So far from Mr. P’s talking “like a book” on the topic at issue, his chief purpose has been to demonstrate that there exists no book on the subject worth talking about; and “common sense,” after all, has been the basis on which he relied, in contradistinction from the uncommon nonsense of Mr. L. and the small pedants.

    And now let us see how far the unusual “common sense” of our satirist has availed him in the structure of his verse. First, by way of showing what his intention was, we quote three accidentally accurate lines:

    But a boy | he could ne | ver be right | ly defined.
    As I said | he was ne | ver precise | ly unkind.
    But as Ci | cero says | he won’t say | this or that.

    Here it is clearly seen that Mr. L. intends a line of four anapaests. (An anapaest is a foot composed of two short syllables followed by a long.) With this observation, we will now simply copy a few of the lines which constitute the body of the poem; asking any of our readers to read them if they can; that is to say, we place the question, without argument, on the broad basis of the very commonest “common sense.”

    They’re all from one source, monthly, weekly, diurnal…
    Disperse all one’s good and condense all one’s poor traits..
    The one’s two-thirds Norseman, the other half Greek.,.
    He has imitators in scores who omit…
    Should suck milk, strong will-giving brave, such as runs…
    Along the far rail-road the steam-snake glide white…
    From the same runic type-fount and alphabet…
    Earth has six truest patriots, four discoverers of ether…
    Every cockboat that swims clears its fierce (pop) gundeck at him…
    Is some of it pr——— no,’tis not even prose…
    O’er his principles when something else turns up trumps…
    But a few silly (syllo I mean) gisms that squat ‘em…
    Nos, we don’t want extra freezing in winter…
    Plough, dig, sail, forge, build, carve, paint, make all things new…

    But enough: — we have given a fair specimen of the general versification. It might have been better — but we are quite sure that it could not have been worse. So much for “common sense,” in Mr. Lowell’s understanding of the term. Mr. L. should not have meddled with the anapaestic rhythm: it is exceedingly awkward in the hands of one who knows nothing about it and who will persist in fancying that he can write it by ear. Very especially, he should have avoided this rhythm in satire, which, more than any other branch of Letters, is dependent upon seeming trifles for its effect. Two-thirds of the force of the “Dunciad” may be referred to its exquisite finish; and had “The Fable for the Critics” been, (what it is not,) the quintessence of the satiric spirit itself, it would nevertheless, in so slovenly a form, have failed. As it is, no failure was ever more complete or more pitiable. By the publication of a book at once so ambitious and so feeble-so malevolent in design and so harmless in execution — a work so roughly and clumsily yet so weakly constructed-so very different, in body and spirit, from anything that he has written before — Mr. Lowell has committed an irrevocable faux pas and lowered himself at least fifty per cent in the literary public opinion.

    The whole delightful review by Poe can be found here http://www.eapoe.org/works/criticsm/slm49l01.htm

    Thomas

  • On May 11, 2009 at 10:22 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “When i was studying the lineage of Free Verse and the pre-cursing agents relating to the birth of Modernism, Poe occupied a unique position. Whilst not rated in his home land, the French went a big wow on him, and i always wondered how much of this will be down the talent of his translator/s?”

    Desmond,

    This idea, that the ‘French Poe’ was all an accident of talented translators, was worked up by a very bitter Englishman, Aldous Huxley, way back in the 1930s, then repeated by T.S. Eliot in ‘From Poe to Valery’ in 1949, after Eliot, fresh with a Nobel Prize, came out of the closet as a Poe hater, revenging his transcendentalist grandpa, William Greenleaf. The brilliant idea (but a very little one) was most recently taken up by Harold Bloom in 1984 in the NY Review. Poe’s immense French influence (looming over the Modernist tea party with Mallarme) had to be explained away by the clique of modernist pretenders who lacked a stomach for great literature…let’s see, Huxley reasoned…Poe’s highly inflected poetry, by mere chance, sounds better in the uninflected French! And Poe’s ability to travel was somehow construed as a negative! English-speaking Poe is nothing but a mirage, for without his French reputation he is nothing (so says the Huxleian idea) and French Poe is a lucky accident! Voila! The modernistes triumph! They put his annoying (and popular) presence in a box and lower it into the sea.

    Thomas

  • On May 12, 2009 at 12:54 am Desmond Swords wrote:

    Thank you very much Thomas.

    i haven’t read much Poe, hardly any, and so the question i asked about wondering if it was the talent of his translators which caused him to become a (the?) founding gob of modernism, (indirectly through french symbolist drug and drink addicts), was not based on having an opinion on the Poe oeuvre, but merely wondering if there was some genius French wordsmith who made a silk purse from porcine ass, and now you’ve dilineated that scenario, a liddle bit of literate history it would have taken me a butterfly route to chance upon (if ever) has been precised down to the bare-faced bones in a line or two gem, resting on a long time spent surfing the texts to make manifest.

    Poe is niot unlike Frank Zappa, in the sense that he inspires cult-like loyalty among the disciple-minded like ourselves, currently gassing up a gang of two people seeing through to whatever it is we are doing intuitively as people who share their addictions.

    I had a pal who was mad on Zappa, and in the early-mid eighties would host sessions on the stereo in his (at that time) full time attempts at converting they who did graps nor share the Zappa world-view or melt into ecstacy, head nodding, agreeing with every word and sound coming out the speakers. And as i was a tough convertee (to begin with) my pals main modus operandi was to be ecstatic, squeal and siong along at particualr lines which he thought carried the holy ethos most, and generally rant away as i sat there unresponsive and slightly bored, and not a little pissed, (especially if drink were involved) as he did the Zappa routine.

    One Saturday afternoon, in his bedsitter in Southport, Lancashire, where saint John would have physically traversed prior to moving away from the local area after it all exploded with Love Me Do and Please Please Me – the conversion process, after several and more years, came good.

    You Are What You Is, was the album and after repeated plays, like a virgin with their first long time suitor they had never guessed would be the one, i came to understand and empathise with others (overwhelmingly brethren) enough to passmyself of as a casual disciple.

    One who knew of Zappa’s worth and could exchange cordial pleasantries with the hardest of the hardcore in the FZ Church, but whose own musical gods lilted more to disco, hard rock, early rap (when it was rhythm and poetry), Irish ballads and an emerging U2,who at that time, we would never have guessed would achieve the domination they did.

    Then Spandu Ballet, Kajagoogoo, Wham, Cyndi Lauper, and an array of rockers destined to BE THE ONE were all saving the planet by devoting their tunes to Saint Bob, who gave his fellow junior Dubliner, Mister Good, the stage on which they launched into a global realm as their competitors in pop bands now long forgotten and whose music dates to that era, looked on, very very happy it wasn’t them acieving the musical Dream.

    Thanks very much Thomas, two bores speaking pure, is all one needs for an audience beyond the borders of our relationship, to feel as we do, humanly connected to the higher realms of light in which some eces, knoweldge, manifestation of it imbues them with interest in the Brady Brunch say, or the Waltons, Osmonds at the height of their power, or county Cavan Virginia’s own, Sleepy Rise (Stephen).

    He is one a three quarter Cavan and one quarter Dublin quartet of artists who i met when i became the very first poet in residence of the Monster Truck Art Gallery 9and workshops), hosting a weekly drinking and Poetry session in a gaffe that had recently been set up by newly exited graduates of the National College of Art and Design on Thomas Street, five minutes away from the creative space itself where the Art happens, and five from the centre of the city, in Dublin’s Liberties district.

    I had been led to this role after receiving a temporary ban from attending the (now defunct) weekly Write and Recite (WaR) gathering, where i had pracised for 14 months prior to the ban and 22 months after it – for bringing the name of this church of poets in Dublin into disrepute, after getting us (unfairly) barred from the Dukes pub, a literary watering hole of fellow artists, Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh, before they died and who where also barred from their when living.

    ~

    This is Stephen singing Blood On The Splinters at the 2007 Love Poetry Hate Racism gig in the Boom Boom Rooms above Conway’s Pub on Parnell Street in Dublin.

    The quality of the sound, being not perfect like on MTV rock shows, means you cannot cognise every word, and does not do true justice to this ballad as it can and has many times existed in reality before my very eyes and ears.

    When you hear it sung acoustically with just the gob and his guitar, his voice is an instrument of immense power. He is a young man definitley at peak capacity and loudness, the height of his vocal power as Ron in Bury would concur should this chap have been included on the bill with Silliman on the night of the Tony Trehy’s Text Festival he has just returned from, and where an old sparring partner, Scott Thurston, a pedogoge and poet i knew as a higher adept under the tutealege of the ollamh in that writing grove, Bob Sheppard, prophet of the church of my first learning, and where i was initiated into the apostlistic code of langpo.

    I remember the first time I heard Sleepy Rise (stephan) nail this ballad in Naked Lunch, a Poetry night he and two pals from UCD instigated after coming to the gigs i hosted as Poet in Residence of the Art Gallery, and fronted by Virginia Cavan’s own, Mike Igoe – and the hairs on the back of the neck, fulfiloing the Houseman test of psychic spear amply, like a young Liam Gallagher before the ale and fags took 80% of his voice. The sheer force of it beyond putting into words.

    Oh there’s blood on the splinters
    Of my mind, coz i’ve broken down
    This wall just like its one last time
    And you never cease to amaze
    me, after all my mistakes you could
    Learn so quickly – oh i’m not so
    god-damn naive, and i’m not a well
    Meaning acolyte for a troubled
    Day at sea no more, oh no,

    That’s why i’ll be walking, walkin
    Out the door.

    Well i’m not as wise as i was
    As a child, and i’m not just the back-
    End of a colour from the light

    oh but i’m sure that i could ever
    Succeed, if i keep working so well
    For those faces the summer leaves,

    And without this truth, there’d
    Be no fallacy, and without this
    dream of mine, there can be no
    there will be no reality:

    ~

    There is a long tradition of world class Dublin balladeers, who start busking and playing the pubs and go onto world fame, the most recent ones like Damien Dempsey and Paddy Casey, because of their tunes getting featured in those Californian teen shows about teenage angst.

    Exactly the same in essence, as Bono telling us of a song that was “written in a hotel room in New York City, around the time a friend of ours, a little steven, was putting together a record of artists against apartheid.

    This is a song written about a man in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg.
    A man who is sick of looking down the barrel of white South Africa.

    A man who is at the point where he is ready to take up arms against his oppressor.

    A man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the west while they argue and while they fail to support a man like bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa.

    Am I buggin’ you?

    I don’t mean to bug ya…
    Okay Edge, play the blues…”

    Blood on the Splinters

  • On May 12, 2009 at 8:47 am thomas brady wrote:

    Desmond,

    I never liked Zappa; I felt like he couldn’t compete with the amazing music of his day (and it was amazing, American pop, British invasion) so he was funny–OK, I like funny, but I found the music-part annoying. I had pals who loved Zappa and used to say, ‘listen to this and listen to that’ and I never really cared.

    I’m a sucker for pop music; give me 1964 Lennon over 1974 Lennon. Lennon was ruined by Yoko and drugs. I loved fat, working-class Lennon competing with Paul. Thin, tea-drinking, sermonizing, feel-my-honesty-and-pain superior-to-Paul Lennon was basically a bore, like George with his Hare Krishna and Paul with his silly love songs.

    Thomas


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 by Travis Nichols.