David Orr responds:

For a poet, Dan Chiasson sure seems like a literal kind of guy. I think it's clear that when I wrote "[a]cademic poetry is intelligent but dull; non-academic poetry is dopey but exciting," I was describing an overgeneralization that's been around since at least the fifties; I wasn't offering the overgeneralization itself as the sum of my own thoughts on the matter. As for Chiasson's comment about "veiled ideologies," I'm at a loss: I wish he'd clarified his veiled objection. In regard to Robert Wrigley's book, W. E. Butts claims that my review "seems to imply" that "primitive, carnal urges and actions" aren't appropriate subjects for poetry. They are among the best subjects for poetry. But I respectfully disagree with Butts about the extent to which they were transformed into good poems in Wrigley's book. I'm glad Butts enjoyed the collection, though, and I admire his passionate advocacy of Wrigley's work even if it doesn't change my view.
Originally Published: October 30th, 2005

David Orr writes the column “On Poetry” for the New York Times Book Review. He is the author of Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (HarperCollins, 2011).

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