5 responses to “Poets on the Warpath”

  1. Don Wallace

    Dan, man, you do get around!

    Thanks for airing your reading sources and investigations into The Dove Affair. I did initially think Vendler’s criticism was well-founded. The bizarre omissions. But Rita’s riposte was pretty centered. Still–the bizarre omissions.

    Sounds like publishers have become as adept at “monetizing” revenue streams as iTunes and Amazon. To the dismay of readers and at the cost of losing future readers and confusing the odd student or auto-didact who picks up a Penguin anthology and says, Huh, so this is the write stuff?

    And not to forget the foreigners. That you heard from Les Murray only shows how these anthologies matter, no matter how little we refer to them since leaving college.

    Your account is, I think, worthy of sending to NYRB itself… Maybe it’s been covered ad nauseum there. Blog it up for WW2BW.

  2. Cheryl

    Ah the ‘politics of poetry’… two comments – this from our own in WW2BWs:

    “I also remember a colleague from the English department saying that he needed a subject for his new book but was having trouble finding a poet he could ‘explain’ to readers. Within that remark is the unbridgeable distance between poetry and criticism.” Marvin Bell

    And of course the ever politically correct Mark Twain – who weighs in:

    “I have often thought that if poets, when they get discouraged, would just blow their brains out, they could write very much better when they got well.” – Speech, Liverpool, 7/10/1907

    I am such a ‘commoner’ about the art and politics of homophonics that my taste in the sound and sense of rhyming runs like this:

    I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow
    I feel my fate in what I cannot fear
    I learn by going where I have to go

    We think by feeling. What is there to know?

    Roethke isn’t it?

    Your ever low-brow poesy lover — dc

  3. Cheryl

    Ah, Dick, this was a refreshing thing to wake up and read. I felt like stepping out on the deck and shouting: “We’re so damn erudite! And God it feels good. If you want to remember how it feels to live, put down your smartphones and read something today!”

    But all the people passing by underneath were wearing earbuds.

  4. Cheryl

    Just read Fenton – this is poesy mud-wrestling at its best, Dan!

    The Essayist’s Ultimate Cage Fight and it should be Pay-For-View…

    How does the old African saying go? “When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled down.”

    Hey – when poets fight do they throw rhyming dictionaries? Heh heh – dc

  5. Cheryl

    Terrific! But I must confess that my own view is that mean-spiritedness and mercenary self-interest could be great for book sales, and that this little dust-up around Rita’s anthology will probably be a huge boost for her sales.

    I’m reminded of something the art critic Dave Hickey once said that’s always stuck with me, that a work of art’s longevity depended on its ability to create a community around itself, and to recreate and recreate new communities through time…. He was talking about visual art, but I think the same applies to all art (though in truth I’ve no idea how a work of art “creates” a community around itself).

    And so Rita leaves out, for example, Ginsberg. I would assume because his publishers asked too much in reprint fees. So the anthology Rita put together to some degree represents not just Rita’s own preferences, but the play of other dynamics, including economics and greed, all which dynamics are a sort of commentary on the state of our culture…. So one has to wonder if her anthology might hint at the ways in which communities around various works of art are or are not forming…. For example, we all still love poor Ginsberg, but what if Rita’s anthology indicates that his art’s failing to recreate a community around itself, not because we don’t still love him or that his poetry’s not still cool, but because of economic considerations, which of course are among the factors that play in a work’s survival…. That is, Ginsberg’s own publisher is maybe killing his art, and Rita’s anthology is a symptom of this fatal ailment.

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