Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

By Fraser Sutherland

Dear Editor,

A.E. Stallings and Peter Campion contributed excellent reviews to your May issue. However, will you declare a moratorium on the word “famous” and its derivatives? Stallings states that Don Paterson “famously left school at sixteen and became a musician.” Campion states that Ezra Pound “famously wrote that the genuine poetic image was ‘that which presents an emotional and intellectual complex in an instant of time.’” The use of “famous” in such contexts is a kind of rhetorical swindle. If the reader recognizes the fact or quotation, he may congratulate himself for the erudition he shares with the writer. If he does not recognize it, he may reproach himself for not knowing the patently well-known. In either case, the writer creates the impression of a complacent knowingness. If you will just strike “famous” from the good prose you publish, you and your readers will get along famously.

Originally Published: September 1st, 2010
Appeared in Poetry Magazine This Appears In