I was happy when I discovered the “Antagonisms” section in your first issue of the new year [January 2013], for when I read the game plan, I was sure we were getting a raucous meeting of the Scriblerus Club, replete with raillery and mordant wit directed at icons from the poetic canon. And the first essay, by Michael Robbins, satisfied my expectations and then some. “The Child That Sucketh Long” is reminiscent of John Dryden’s sally against a poet of his day: “To some faint meaning [others] make pretense, / But Shadwell never deviates into sense.”
Unfortunately, none of the other poets make much use of satire. They seem shy about letting fly. Jason Guriel gives it a go in his send-up of E.E. Cummings, but he constantly hoists himself up on a pedestal as if he’s above all this childish nonsense: “Cummings seemed to have been invented to convert that stubborn student the syllabus has failed to win over to verse — or, at least, to reacquaint the kid with his inner child, the id whose appetite for nonsense and nursery rhymes has been socialized away.”
I suppose. But does Guriel mean something like this?
O what’s the weather in a Beard?
It’s windy there, and rather weird,
And when you think the sky has cleared
— Why, there is Dirty Dinky.
That’s not by Mother Goose but by Theodore Roethke, by consensus one of the important American poets of the mid-twentieth century. His appetite had not been socialized away.