Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poetry, the dismal art

As a teenager I aspired for a time to become a poet. Eventually, I decided that my ear was not good enough, and I was not prepared to endure the life of poverty that this career choice almost inevitably entailed.

Still, based on this interest, I have checked in from time to time on current poetry production. The most discouraging feature is its formal poverty: no rhyme, rhythm, imagery, or intertexuality: just indifferent prose with the lines chopped off.

Of course there is content of a sort, but most of it counts as "confessional," that is, the airing of tedious personal experience, usually in the service of some grievance or other. The high priestess of this trend was of course the late Sylvia Plath. Plath's life was indeed tragic, but that fact doesn't make her verse exemplary or even interesting.

Then there is the plague of popular culture, as seen in the trend sometimes known as camp: "Lana Turner Has Collapsed!" That last gem is by a leading gay poet, Frank O'Hara, but the fact that he was gay does not reconcile me to his junk verse.

I am not alone in espousing these negative views.

Responding to the latest poet-laureate appointment, that of the pedestrian Philip Levine, Anis Shivani has some blunt, but appropriate words (huffingtonpost.com for 8/13):


"The truth about American poetry is that it is in very bad shape. The professional poetry establishment has taken care to mark serious criticism coming its way as sour grapes, but the quality of poetry being produced by American poets regularly awarded the highest prizes in the land and recognized as the equals of past masters is not meant to last this pathetic moment of self-absorption and lassitude.

"One reads Sharon Olds, Jorie Graham, Louise Glück, Philip Levine, and their camp followers to come away diminished, as a reader and as a human being. Their very project is to participate--as the front guard of a regressive political elite--in the annihilation of common decency at all levels. Their poetry is garish, troublingly content-free, indecorous, and emotionless. Readers are smart not to read this trash."

The writer goes on--but you get the point.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Burk Braun said...

Right on. I suggest you look at rap and other forms of popular music for the real poetry of today.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Dyneslines said...

I agree. Mos def.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous muebles cadiz said...

It will not succeed in actual fact, that is what I think.

10:57 PM  

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