Thursday, January 08, 2009

What Kind of Asshole Poet?

Regarding the comment section at the bottom of the article. This is something that bothers me most about a certain type of ego-malfunctioning (and in my opinion, wannabe) poet. The article is one editor's selections for "Top Poetry Books of 2009." Whether one cares for these types of lists or agrees with the selections made, it's one guy writing about poetry. One guy trying to introduce new readers to these books. There's all kinds of responses one could come up with towards such an article, supportive or critical.

But what does "Sally" find worthy of pointing out? That the press this editor works for published his own book. Not that "Sally" bothered to share any criticism about this editor's book. I bet "she" never read it. Don't you know, poetry is all about how you get your poetry out there, not the stoopid poetry itself. I mean, geez, what kind of asshole reads and has anything to say about contemporary poetry these days?

It's way more important to write lengthy letters speculating whether or not John Ashbery and W.H. Auden had a little winkie winkie going on 50+ years ago, than to appreciate the tens of books and thousand of poems Ashbery created. The fact that John Ashbery still has to defend himself against accusations like this is particularly repulsive. Yes, I'm sure we'd all be reading poems by this (still) disgruntled poet who didn't win Yale -- if only Auden was able to resist Ashbery's oh-so "soft-spine". If Ashbery is not a poet worthy of being read, the letter writer should make that argument instead of stewing over a poem-making tramp stealing his contest judge.

In fact, that is what I'd like to see a lot more of -- instead of going after the modes of how a poet gets work out there, why don't these jilted poets instead explain what it is exactly about the work that lacks merit. Tell me why I shouldn't waste my time reading these poems. Cause you know, when I read a poem, the last thing that crosses my mind is who knows who -- and the last quality I desire from a poet is conventionality and rule-following. I yearn for the days when poets were poets and poems were _______.


At 1:43 PM, Blogger Barbara Jane Reyes said...

Hey there, so I'm with you on how irritating it is to have critics get all in a tizzy not about the work itself.

And of course that we all end up supporting/opening up opportunities for friends and people we know who are poets goes without saying.

In the meantime I don't even understand what "Sally" is all upset about - there are not VQR/UGA books on his list. AM I missing something?

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Collin Kelley said...

I think the asshole you crossed out in your headline fits Sally perfectly.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Charles said...

Lots of interesting points on both sides of this discussion, though I'm not sure yet where I fall.

I do agree that I enjoy it more when we talk about the poems rather than the poets. Poets are so often less interesting and less memorable.

(Except for us)

At 6:29 PM, Blogger the unreliable narrator said...

Good GOD what a horrifying letter. Applying the truth test I was taught in first-year undergraduate philosophy of logic would come in handy here: EVEN IF it's true, did it help anyone in any way to write it? And the answer is obviously, nooooo. I can't imagine that the author sleeps any better for having done so.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger the unreliable narrator said...

NB by the way that I meant Kessler's letter; but the same would hold true, as it happens, for Sally's notes.


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