Friday, August 19, 2005

Slipping On My NS Sweater

Some of the New Sincerists wear jackets, but I'm more of a sweater gal. Kind of like a naughty Mr. Rogers.

Steve posted some thoughtful comments about the NS. Cleary Steve is offended by Tony's "most contemporary poetry is boring" comment. I see where Steve is coming from. I, too, get very annoyed when someone says how there's no good contemporary poetry being written. If you're not finding poetry you like, why don't you get out of your comfort zone and read some different publications. Yeah, I don't find much to love in Poetry, Paris Review, etc., either so I don't subscribe. I don't get all bent out of shape about it. I don't take it as a personal affront when a journal doesn't suit me. I'm always find new pubs to check out and sometimes I find one that I really dig and that makes me happy. If I like 50% of the poems in a particular journal, that's a pretty good journal as far as I'm concerned.

But Tony isn't (nor anyone in "the movement" that I'm aware) saying that there isn't any good contemporary poetry. Anyone who is following Tony's blog is privy to a number of examples of what he's looking for (and trying to achieve in his own) poems. Also, Tony's on record at Poetry Dailer and a large extent at The Canary (since he's one of the editors) with contemporary poems he admires. If Tony (or anyone for that matter) only finds interesting 25% of poems he comes across, then most contemporary poetry (as far as he's concerned) is indeed boring.

Comparing what Tony has written to some of the things Joan Houlihan has wrote in her column is unfair and missing the point. Houlihan's essays are hater essays. Chopped full of venom and attacks -- specifically going after particular styles of poetry, specific poets and her all time favorite punching bag, the BAP series. She accuses certain poets and editors of "denaturing" poetry, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. She practically declares war on David Lehman. Tony (or any other NS) has never declared war on anything. Occasionally he's gotten into some heated exchanges with some individual poets. That's him having issues with particular people. That's life.

The New Sincerity proclaims no enemies. There is no New Sincerist jihad. It's a big umbrella. You don't have to kiss anyone's ass. If you agree with its goals (writing poems with feeling, poems that you want to read), you're in. If you agree with its goals but want nothing to do with us, nobody is making you take part. If you don't agree with its goals and think its stupid, nobody is making you read about it (or write "sincere" poems).

I admire Joe Massey's poems. I've corresponded with and consider him a neat guy. That being said, you'll be hard pressed to find much similarity in our writing and you'd be even harder pressed to confuse a boonie-living guy wearing tighty-whiteys and rotting shoelaces with a suburban MILF wearing expensive French underwear and owning more shoes than she can fit in her walk-in closet. While I agreed with its sentiment, Massey's manifesto turned my stomach, but not as much as those Joyce "love" letters. (Sidenote: I adore flirty letters, but if you send me something along the lines of what Joyce sent his wife, mail from your address will quickly be routed to my "Freak" folder and will forever remain unread.)

All these differences, yet we both call ourselves New Sincerists. He is my brother in the movement. We strive for similar results with our poems. We will meet for the first time in Austin and over the course of an evening he will probably drink two pitchers of beer and I will have my standard 1.5 vodka martinis. He'll get into an altercation with an unknown drunk over the jukebox. I excuse myself to the ladies room and on my way back meet a dashing man with good shoes and sparkly watch. This suave stranger will buy me an expensive drink that I will not finish and try to impress me with his knowledge of some trendy-to-like-at-the-moment poet that I've never read and I'll wish I was back sitting next to Joe being grossed out by his flatulence humor. But I won't be able to go back for Joe will have been tossed out of the bar for disorderly conduct a long time before. So I'll smile and look pretty and pray for last call so I can use my standard "I don't fuck" line and politely excuse myself.

Viva la New Sincerists!


At 12:38 AM, Blogger JWG said...

how does that line go?

At 12:25 PM, Blogger andy mr. said...

If this is the New Sincerity, I want OUT!

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reb, using me as a prop to flaunt your wealth is garish and insulting, and utterly insincere.

An overflowing closet of shoes is an image that turns *my* stomach.



At 12:43 PM, Blogger Reb said...

Aw shit, leave it to the chick to ruin everything!

At 3:25 PM, Blogger steve mueske said...

Hi, Reb. Thanks for the mention. I just want to go on record saying I have nothing but respect for Tony. I sincerely hope that my comments about him are not viewed as being similar to my comments about Joan H. What I was trying to say, and probably didn't say very well, was that I see both comments as symptoms of a larger dissatisfaction with poetry in general. They are stylistically dissimilar poets and critics, but I do think the underlying frustration with both is there. Earlier in the year, Tony mentioned trying to develop a "poetics of humility," which I thought an interesting key insight to his work. Thanks for letting speak.

Take care,


At 8:40 PM, Blogger JWG said...

you were joking. He must be joking.


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