Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70s: Elton's Meat

Mmmmm... Oh Elton! What a fine feast thou hast for us! Your "meal piece" makes my mouth dribble! And you look like such a sweet boy. Sure, Sam Cornish could have kicked your ass, and Mark Strand got more action, but you are the Lost Poet of the 70s who we would vote "Most Likely to Star as an Extra on the Brady Bunch." And your poem? I'll let our fearless snarkers decide in the comments section of this post. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Philosophy of Poetry Snark, Part II: On Anonymity

I saw some peeps talking about Poetry Snark on this message board, and there was some back and forth about anonymous blogs. So I thought I would go over this one more time.

First of all, anonymity has always played a vital role in the blogosphere. Many, many bloggers use pseudonyms. This is nothing new. Anonymity on blogs is, of course, in many ways an outgrowth of the medium: the fact is, in the vast majority of cases, you can't really tell if someone is telling the truth about their identity anyway, hence all the concern about pedophiles, etc. If I wanted to, I could easily make up a "real" identity behind Poetry Snark and announce it. As long as I didn't use someone's real name, there would be no way of knowing the difference. In fact, when Silliman told us he wouldn't post a link to this blog unless I provided him with a real name, I thought briefly about sending him some random name. I decided that would have been lame, so no link for us...

Secondly, as one commenter on the message board I just mentioned put it: "There's a sort of art in itself to the pseudonym." I don't pretend to any of the pseudonymical genius of Robert Frost, Henry Dagger, or R.C. Bald, but their blogs are fucking hilarious and make brilliant use of the media's fundamental anonymity.

Finally, as Trochee discussed in a previous post, anonymity can be a healthy corrective for what I've elsewhere called the "cult of niceness" infecting American poetry. It is only in the 20th-century that signing one's name to literary reviews became the norm. If you take the time to look back to previous eras--times when poetry enjoyed a healthier relationship to public audiences and a more prominent cultural role--you'll find that many, many reviews were anonymous. In some of the snarkiest and best journals, like the Edinburgh Review (our favorite), most reviews were anonymous. Also, the stakes are pretty low here: nobody sitting on a tenure committee or with their hands on the grant money is going to take a blog like Poetry Snark seriously. And it's not like we're making serious accusations or attacking peoples' ethics or their fundamental characters. We think the poets we snark can handle it just fine, and it they can't, that says more about them than it does about us. As anyone reading our comments sections can tell, we welcome all snark and delight in all the snark you all have heaped on us (and that we here heap on each other). So snark on, snarkers, for as Yeats once put it, "we traffic in snarkery." (Hmmm, something tells me ol' "monkey glands" Yeats wouldn't have liked this blog...)

Friday, May 27, 2005

In Praise of Good Snark On Some Bad Snark

In the most recent issue of The Nation, Lee Siegel laid into Camille Paglia's newest barnstormer, Break, Blow, Burn. His article, Look at Me, is a magnificent blast of snark against the self-maligning agitation that Paglia seems to fall more & more victim to.

In her newest book, she tackles poetry and attempts to make the claim that contemporary poetry is no longer ambitious and that poets no longer hope to nor are able to speak for & about their generation(s). Well, this is one of the book's premises. Paglia always struck me as a diminished & corrupted version of Susan Sontag. Sontag brilliantly utilized her intelligence in polemical fashion, always keeping pace with the literature of her day while harking back to the past, all the while provoking the rest of us future participants in the life of culture to act. Paglia once had some of this spirit but has resorted instead to attempting to pursue that mythical quality of balance, always trying to find some kind of bridge by contrariness to all things. I don't usually care for reconciliation or compromise but any critic who cannot look to the present to speak of the present has no business shovelling shit on my plate and calling it steak. Especially when it delves into self-snark, something that is noted by Lee Siegel:

"[...] Paglia's Emersonian pronouncements on the inestimable value of the individual began to sound as adolescent as Emerson at his most solipsistic. And celebrity started exacting its usual toll on Paglia in the form of self-exaggeration and self-parody. The thoughtful gadfly became a performing gabfly; her provocations declined into insults; her once-gratifying affirmations of individuality, imagination and incalculable experience began to sound like playground shouts of Look at Me. Paglia's vituperative ranting against hate-speech laws now seemed like arguments for why they should exist. She seemed to be precisely the kind of old-fashioned bully who had given rise to the new fragility and its search for protection, and for its own sources of power."

Paglia's new book makes the claim that "poetry was at the height of prestige in the 1960s. American college students were listening to rock music but also writing poetry. [...] [O]ver the following decades, poetry and poetry study were steadily marginalized by pretentious 'theory.'" Oh, if only this was true. The truth of the matter, despite all the talk of LangPo, to pick on one example, there is a good deal more poetry written outside of the parameters of 'theory', a fact duly made clear by coffeehouse readings stuffy with sonneteering Beat-inspired drek, slam poetry competitions with their WWE atmosphere of witless bawdiness & clunky politicizing, and countless zines running the fence along formalism and experimentalism, all poison, all lacking in notions of precedence and innovation. Paglia seems woefully trapped in the 1960s without a hint of irony that the waves have already crashed and the tide receded, to paraphrase the late Hunter S. Thompson, and so she turns to some of the great poems of the English language of the past. This irony is wonderfully articulated by Siegel:

"Writers and lovers of poetry would be aware, too, that the situation Paglia is describing is a figment of her publicity-deprived imagination. For one thing, her golden age of the 1960s, far more than our own moment, shook with mandarin anxiety that poetry, and high culture in general, was being snuffed out by the counterculture. For another, if a "crisis" exists in poetry, it's the same trying circumstances that prevail in the world of art in general.We live in a prosperous society that offers plenty of free time for the coddled children of the middle and upper-middle class (and beyond), a society where there are more college-educated people than at any time in modern history. And so there are now more people than at any time in human history who are, understandably, seeking to escape the primordial curse of uncreative human labor by--usually thanks to their parents' financial support--trying to make various kinds of art."

Siegel does not stop there however; and here is perhaps the height of his anti-Paglia snark (my italics):

"The result is an expanded market, a huge inflation of artistic output, and a sharp intensification of competition. There are probably no fewer worthwhile poems, novels and paintings now being made by gifted people than there ever were. But there's a vast increase in desperate, ego-driven shit, of which Paglia's book happens to be a good example. Overproduction makes it harder for good work to get noticed, and thus harder to find. And because the old aesthetic criteria have been relativized--or marginalized--by new conditions that we can barely understand or articulate, it's also more difficult to recognize real art when we do see it."

I will let you read through the article to read the delectable bits Siegel picks out of Paglia's books and puts under the snarkoscope. It is not only, unfortunately, believable that such poor, misguided criticism should find its way onto so many slaughtered tree-guts but it is also terribly sad that Paglia clearly lacks the imagination she attempts to stir in us readers, falling back on variations of freshman-paper tropes such as claiming that "Shakespeare's mobile eye prefigures the camera" without even realizing that the eye is a natural camera; if only she had listened more carefully to her own times so that she might have learned from the prophet McLuhan and realized that the camera is an extension of our eye, that one's eyes cannot prefigure a camera but rather a camera is made to aid our eye & memory while Shakespeare's timeless treasures do the same with much less equipment and good deal more imagination unlike our poor Camille Paglia, hag and saint of her own travesty.

My friends, Lee Siegel not only has done a commendable job but he has also exposed one of the great problems of people addressing poetry: a complete lack of awareness of the subject. Rather than take oneself to task, one like Paglia prefers to make a fuss, to invent a crisis, which in the end, only makes one look stupid and pathetic. Siegel 1, Paglia -1

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Stick Up David Smith's Butt

If the stick up David Smith's butt was this big in the 70s, you can imagine how big it must be now. Use this thread to suggest what Mr. Smith was thinking while this photo was being taken. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Worst Anthology Ever?

Have any of you seen this anthology with the dangerous, dangerous title: Short Fuse: A Global Anthology of New Fusion Poets? It’s got to be the worst anthology in... well, you decide. The cover sports what looks like a mob of pissed-off Wobblies raising books in the air—presumably of “fusion poetry”—in what I assume is a march upon the ivory towers of academia… or something. This militant air of faux rebelliousness foresees its contents. One might reasonably ask what (besides putrid verse) is being “fused” by this newly-invented school of “fusion poets?” Well, according to the introduction it’s two things: a) slam poets and “flat” poets; and b) the international anglophone poetry community. Let’s pause a moment to snark both of these endeavors, shall we?

Reading it, I wondered how this anthology could be so truly, odiously bad until I read the introduction and realized that half of the wankers I had been perusing were slam poets being put into print. Big names like Bob Holman get slapped together with nobodies, and you know what?—it’s impossible to tell the difference. Bob Holman is a big, NYC-class hack. He has a tin ear and an adolescent's sense of metaphor. Think bad prose with line breaks meant to be read loudly to dumb, upper-middle-class hipsters. And to have to actually READ these things instead of hear him shout them at you while you are at least drunk (you hope) is a nauseating experience. Here's what he says of himself in the anthology's bio: “Bob Holman has been a central figure (as anthologist, apologist, emcee, and impreario) in the reemergence of poetry in contemporary English-language culture.” I kid you not. If this is poetry’s “reemergence,” then somebody kick it’s scrawny ass hard enough to make it crawl back into whatever hole it was in before Holeman came along. Let it die in peace. And more importantly, quiet.

But what I’m really wondering is who came up with this term: “flat poets." Is this a coinage of these editors (Todd “not so” Swift and Philip “like the other anthology” Norton)? Or is ol’ Snark so out-of-the-loop that I don’t know that this is a widely-used coinage? Hacks like Holman and his band of East Village syncophants don't deserve to be read—and the notion that their "work" makes other poetry look flat by comparison would be funny if they were kidding. They're not. Somebody pinch me and tell me to wake up. Or at least tell me in the comments section of this post that people don’t actually use the term “flat poets” at the Bowery Poetry Club or wherever these carrion feeders roost.

Then there’s this fusion of the “anglophone poetry community." To which I say: what fucking community? Bringing together English-language poets from across the pond? Right. Like that’s really going to happen. American poets don’t give a flying fuck about British poets (the reverse may also be true; I have no idea). Some have a residual respect for the Irish, but contemporary British poets aren’t even on the map over here. So you have some guy named Simon Armitage who sells books like a popular novelist? Never read him. Does he suck as bad as Billy Collins? And Canadian poets? We’re about as impressed by Canadian poets as we are by Canadian movies. Or painters. Or beer. (etc.) Don't believe this “Anglophone community” thing. But pick up Short Fuse: A Global Anthology of New Fusion Poets—don’t buy it! But pick it up sometime at the store and read a few pages. Then come back here and tell me if I'm not right.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Use the Snark, Bald

The Snark is all around you. This post is written for R.C. Bald, who is now feeling its strength, but really, it is here for all of us. It has always been here waiting for you to come to it, to know it, befriend it. Listen to Bald:

"Friends ... I feel an odd imbalance lately of a most peculiar nature that seems to be infecting the very marrow of my bones. Yes, yes, the more I wax discursive on the subject of that most beloved figure in the attic Pantheon, yes, friends, I speak of Poetry, the more I feel roused to formidably establish her defense from would-be defilers. I have odd & heretofore foreign compulsions to verbally bludgeon, if you will, those that would make a Jezebel of her. All of this snarking business in which I have lately played such a fervent role seems to be tinting the nature of my critical eye, yes, so much so that where I once saw compassion & the slow & gradual obligation to aid the uninvested towards poetic salvation, I now feel compelled to whip them, to throw the lash of vitriol across their obstinate backs until they break, squawking out..."

Hear me, Bald. You must learn to use the Snark. It has powers you can only dream of. There are things that the lyric can never teach you. Only the dark side can save your beloved muse, young master. Soon Lord Snark will prove victorious over this Kosmos. Join us, Bald, and there shall be peace and justice throughout the land. Only with the power of the Snark can you save your beloved, Poetry.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70s: Smoking Sam Cornish

For those of you reloading the page every few seconds in anxious anticipation, here it is: this week's installation of Where are they now? Lost Poets of the 70s! The font came out a bit small today, so click on the image for your reading/fashion enjoyment.

We admire Mr. Cornish's suit--we really do, and his hairstyle has endured better than most of his 70s counterparts (certainly better than Marvin Bell or Thomas Brush). But man, what's that dude smoking in this picture? Check out those eyes ...

His poem isn't as bizarre as our last installation, but it does feature a thirteen-year-old "wondering if he had the special knowledge / that women wanted from men / endured the pain she moaned / the odor between her breasts" Pew... I wonder what Agent Trochee's gonna say about this one. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Geoffrey G. O'Brien: "speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick"

Ask and ye shall receive. Our First Book Poet Poetry Snark winner is …. (sound of drums rolling) Geoffrey G. O'Brien! While there have been many worthy contenders already listed in Tuesday's post (keep 'em coming), O'Brien was listed first in your comments, is among the better known names provided, and has the most pretentious jacket photo. So O'Brien it is!

The Guns and Flags Project is a book relentlessly, brutally self-conscious of its poetic lineage, which is that old mainstay: Stevens>Ashbery>Less Talented Suck-up. This is a book that seems preconceived to jolt Harold Bloom into pre-orgasmic alert status or lull John Koethe into blissfully-hypnotized self-absorption. So Stevensian/Ashberian is it that the poems are indistinguishable. At any moment in The Stuns and Drags Project, we could be waste-deep in a milquetoast and truncated version of "Clepsydra" or B-grade Stevens like "Examination of the Hero in a Time of War." O'Brien's titles are so Stevensoashberian as to be hilarious: "Observations on the Florida Question," "Standing Before Paintings," "Two Philosophers," "Reverent Estimations," "The Truth in Italy" (I could continue). The first word that comes to mind when one thinks of Runs and Brags is "palaver." That is to say, these poems go on and on, in a blandly homogenous, all-too-loose five-stress line that is terrified of statement yet hobbled by the unconscious urge to assert. For example: "Far be it from me to say that you've an ocean / in your throat, as you don't maintain it is so…. Far be it from me to say of your inner / surfaces that they're visited with marine qualities…" And so it goes. Well, far be it for Snark to say that O' Brien's career looks to be less than promising, but Shuns and Lags is one of the most boring books of poetry I've ever read. We have to agree with O'Brien when he says "it's not the sex of [my] clouds but their muteness that hangs, / sourceless, talentless, above the manic ground." Or almost agree: sexless, mute, and talentless--yes, we see that part--but sourceless? Fraid not, son. Your sources are painfully obvious. As our old friend Francis Jeffrey once said, "this will never do."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Philosophy of Poetry Snark, Part I: First Book Poets

The standard operational procedure with reviews is to leave bad first books alone. The bad stuff will be forgotten on its own, the argument goes, and it’s not particularly helpful to be discouraging to young poets. As you might have guessed, we here at Poetry Snark disagree. Some young poets could use a little more discouragement. Many are doomed to a dismal life of failed expectations—the decades-long wait to climb out of the obscurity of a benefitless, low-paying adjuncting gig; the discovery that second books, because not as broadly funded by contests, are often more difficult to publish; and the sheer anonymity of being one of the great mass of contest-sponsored first book poets to be shored against the ruins of academia—these things must be hard for a young person to endure. Poetry Snark would spare them the agony by letting some particularly odious first book poets know that they really ought to pack it in.

But it is more than just charity to these young versifiers that motivates us to thrash their fledgling collections. The other reason why we will be instituting a series of first book snarkings and roastings relates to our philanthropic desire to heal the tepid atmosphere of contemporary critical reception. If we don’t tell the truth when poets lay a rotten egg of a first book, how will readers know when a real golden hen has arrived? How, in short, can we trust discourse that holds “niceness” as its highest value? If everything is good, nothing is truly good.

What few bad reviews are actually written these days are done so out of mere partisanship. An “experimental” poet aligned with this or that herd of avant-gardists may, on occasion, lay into their ideological opposite. Likewise, Adam Kirsch or one of the white guys at Poetry may occasionally lay the strap to someone they deem too obscure or post-modern. This is nothing but another form of the mindless trench warfare that I described in a previous post—the lame resurrection of poetry wars of the 50’s and 60’s. As always, we here at the Snark are a strictly non-partisan operation. If a “new formalist” drops a stink bomb, we will snark it; if a denizen of cave LangPo crawls out to plop a turd, we will snark. Agent Trochee has a particular aversion to new confessionalism and multy-culty charity cases, so we’ll probably sick him on those toadies. We promise to move continually between approaches and schools, and if we seem to be showing one particular bias, we are counting on you to keep us in line in the comments section. Use this thread to suggest first books that you’d like to see us put to rest.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mark Strand: Poetry's Pimp

Hey there pretty lady, wanna come sit on my absence? Posted by Hello

Friday, May 13, 2005

Piling It On Adam Hardin

Who is this Adam Hardin, and why is he such a tool? In a comment to my last post, he wrote "Diagruntled [sic] MFA students? Some yes. But I was smart enough not to attend a [sic] MFA program which is [sic] for people who ca not [sic] read taught by people who can not [sic] write. We need snark frankly. American Literature is dead, and the Literati don't even know it. Wake up."

So you are lecturing a blogger named Snark who hosts a site called Poetry Snark to "wake up" because "we need snark." Gotcha. Maybe you want me to change the name of the site to "Really Snarky Poetry Snark" or "The Snarkiest Poetry Snark Snarking Ever!" Our wacky pal r.c. bald had this to say about Mr. Hardin and his proud shout-out:

"I say, dear chap, I have made use of that trapdoor of ubiquity, the google search engine, indeed, & in doing so discovered your membership in the Underground Literary Alliance, which, so far as my eye can discern, seems to base its cosmologies on the Truman Show & its poetics on the work of Charles Bukowski. Certainly, friends, the fodder for proclamation of the death of literature as we know it! I for one am a staunch disciple of such fervent leanings, & yes, yes, friends, I garner en masse my worldview from the great & insightful works of Jim Carrey (I think namely of the startling glimpses into the soul of man provided in "Ace Ventura" & "Dumb & Dumber") & base all of my literary inclinations on the life work of a frighteningly hirsute wart of a man whose words spilled out of him like so many drops of Milwaukee's Best Light (such lyric passages as "I'm drunk & I farted/ Pass me a whiskey"). No wonder, I should say, this chap feels only lifelessness when his fingers are on the pulse of such literature. How could anyone hope to surpass such brilliance?"

And an anonymous snarker added:

"Adam you are a broken fucking record.... American Lit is dead is dead is dead!...Go bury American Lit in the backyard. Or better, go write the revival. You foetry creeps just sing the same tune over and over again. You scenesters you."

But not even the foets will have anything to do with the mighty Adam Hardin. Foetry writes:

"Adam Hardin is a half-cocked blowhard and a buffoon, taking credit for the work of others. He should slink away and read some of his Neoshakespearians such as Don DeLillo and leave the real muckraking to the real writers."

Snark agrees, and as far as the Underground Literary Alliance goes, we think they should go a little further underground. What can you say about a group that feels the need to proclaim itself to be "controversial" at every opportunity? That they have a really ugly web site? Well, yes, that.

update: apparently the quote I cited above wasn't from foetry but from someone posing as foetry. The link is here (scroll to bottom of page). Anyone know who it was?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New York Times Hit Piece on Jorie Graham = Lame Snark

Perhaps the most widely agreed upon sentiment among the M.F.A. grunts of today's poetry world is that Jorie Graham sucks. Indeed, saying snarky things about Jorie Graham has become a kind of cottage industry in today's poetry world. We here at Poetry Snark have no desire to defend Ms. Graham (we don't do that sort of thing), but we do have a desire to promote the standards of quality snark, and the endlessly repetitive, humorless grousing about Graham and her obscure poems and contest cronyism strikes us as the lamest, safest, most boring and conformist snark around. I mean, you know an opinion about poetry has reached a new height in unthinking dogma when the opinion itself becomes a news item in the New York Times. The New York Times, which recently stopped reviewing poetry altogether, apparently only finds poetry valuable enough to comment upon when it realizes there's a market for its story among disgruntled M.F.A. students and losers of first book contests. So David Orr took it upon himself to summarize the findings of the M.F.A. echo chamber in a story that comes to the shocking conclusion that Jorie Graham's poems are "poetic," "thinky," and "fuzzy." Holy shit, now I get it David! What insight you have! But Orr is too much of a coward to even really lay into Graham--instead he hedges, informing us also that "the point isn't that Graham's a bad poet--she's not…" This isn't snark; it's pandering to the masses of unpublished first book poets who have become convinced that the reason they lost the Podunk Review Poetry Prize has nothing to do with the quality of their work. No, it's Jorie Graham's fault … that's why. Somewhere in the dark, inner sanctum of the Iowa or Harvard poetry death-star war room--where the secret cabal of Jorie Graham's storm troopers plot their evil machinations--a deal is being cut to personally cheat you out of that $20 submission fee.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70s: "Stoked with Stokesbury"

Tie on yer feed-bags Snarkers, because this is most certainly the best Where Are They Now? Lost Poets of the 70s offering to date, and it's going to be hard to top, you will agree when you read Leon Stokesbury's astonishing bit-o-verse. In case you are wondering, all of these are real poets and their real poems that I dug up from an old anthology (to be disclosed at the end of the series). Read this poem, and please, somebody explain to me what Stokesbury did to that "2-by-4 stable boy" with his "refried banana." Email this one to your lists poetry peeps, this snark is for the ages. Posted by Hello

Monday, May 09, 2005

from the desk of Agent Trochee

Dear Snarkville,

Lately we have received a good deal of email expressing joy over our coverage of the poetry world's missteps and misfortunes. We have even more email from readers out there on the interweb who think we are "low slinky beasts and that we should keep our heads in the shit we produce." That is some good snark. But there was also concern and constructive criticism.

For example, why anonymity? Well, that is simple. Anonymity not only carries on a tradition by the Edinburgh Review but it also ensures honesty. You see, snarking is not for us but for everyone. Just like the museum is not just for the rich or the educated but for everyone and for the preservation of our histories, so too is Poetry Snark for the preservation of poetry and for everyone. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and sometimes those opinions are strong. Because readers are sometimes unable to express themselves properly when righteously disgusted by mediocrity and ineptitude, they may be embarrassed by potentially sounding crazy, stupid or some other shameful adjective. Well, fear no more, Snarkville! Here at Poetry Snark we hope to provide varied coverage so that you may make comments of your own.

This venture applies equally to readers and writers. After all, writers sometimes want to talk shit about their friends but don't know how to. Well, here you can do just that. Or maybe you are into cronyism and politics, well, we won't hold that against you too much so long as you are honest. Hell, you can lie to us. We don't care. You probably suck anyway.

So, remember kids: this is not for fame and glory. No, this is for some righteous corrective action. Poetry Snark is for poetry and snark, two glorious arts working together to keep humanity on course.

Writers and readers alike, we are calling you out. Get it together or get out.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Raw and the Cooked is now the Smart and the Sincere

Remember the poetry wars of old? Those were the days of "the raw and the cooked." The academic poets I described previously as "the old academicism," along with others, somewhat less academic, but still fairly refined in their aesthetics--poets like Robert Lowell, Hayden Carruth, maybe Elizabeth Bishop, and others--were set at odds with the Beats, mostly, but to some extent also the early New York School and the Black Mountain poets in a poetry war commonly referred to as "the raw and the cooked." That was the old, bullshit dividing line: poetry that mostly resisted traditional form and poetry that toyed with it, that conserved it. Never mind that some of the supposedly "raw" poets were also writing in form, just different kinds, and that the supposedly "cooked" poets also wrote in loose free verse. Form was just the most mentionable of differences. This was about other cultural divides: refined East Coasters, Bostonians, post Robert Frosters and T.S. Eliotites versus shaggy west coasters and Greenwich Village cruisers and outcasts; Whitman lovers versus Dickinson lovers; Surrealist aficionados versus neo-symbolists; would-be rock star, neo-populist romantics versus involute, Victorian romantics; dope smokers versus scotch drinkers. It was easy to see the difference, and critics like Lionel Trilling and M.L. Rosenthal reinforced the divide (predictably, they sided with "the cooked").

It's a different poetry war today, Snarkophiles. Today it’s not the raw and the cooked but the smart and the sincere. Nobody is "raw" anymore. We're all sophisticates now. And almost nobody is uninfected with the academia bug--we're all mostly nursing off the same tit (there are exceptions on both sides of course--Silliman, for example, and, until recently, our new poet Laureate, Sir Kooser). But some of us would still be known more for our brains, and some of us for our hearts. It's the scarecrows versus the tin men (the cowardly lions are both camps when they put on their "poetry reviewer" hats). The scarecrows have a little more money and a few more readers, and the tin men have more academic critics on their side and a growing insurgent youth group as allies. Geographically, the fight is decentered--with both sides scattered--though there are recognized schools of the smart (Brown, SUNY Buffalo) and of the sincere (Stanford, Wisconsin, Nebraska). Iowa, a former bunker for scarecrows has become diversified with the inclusion of Swenson (an uber-tin woman) and Dean Young (a fence sitter or throw back to the "raw" school). And what is the war over? The role of theory (or lack thereof), the role of lyricism (or the lack thereof), subject matter (or lack thereof), the role of allusion (what audience should "get it"?), poetic lineages (Whitman for the sincere and Dickinson for the smart; Frost and Williams for the sincere, Stein, Pound, and Oppen for the smart).

What a stinking load of horseshit this war amounts to. Silliman likes to call the scarecrows the "School of Quietism." Gag me with a Marxist spoon--as if he and his ilk really made a damn bit of difference in the real world with their "politics." The scarecrows, in turn, have become anti-intellectual dipshits and intellectual/cultural isolationists. Can we get over it already? Why choose between thought and lived experience, lyricism and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E? You call this a war? I got a war for you Scarecrows and Tin Men: Poetry Snark versus all of your lame asses.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

My Fellow Snarkers Suck

Simple message to my fellow Snarkers: get your lazy asses in gear, or you're fired--especially you, Bill Blood--not one post from you. Unless, perchance, you are really r.c. bald... What the fuck is up with that guy? Hong Kong expat poetry? I thought Sebald was a dead fiction writer obsessed with the holocaust and old photographs.

update: I Googled "R. C. Bald," and it appears the dude is real--either that, or he has stolen this other guy's name. Shockingly, Bald seems to be a successful, well-published scholar--which means he is also either a nutjob with too much free time on his hands or that he is doing a hell of a job acting like that's the case. Hats off to you, crazy Hong Kong dude. We've added you to our elite list of linked sites. (If this doesn't make sense to you, read this guy's whack comments in my recent posts). Oh and in case you missed it: David Allen Evans, it turns out, is the Poet Laureate of South Dakota. Go figure. Shumway's fate remains undetermined. Anyone know? Any speculation?

Next week, in addition to our "Lost Poets of the 70s" series, I will be snarking Mark Strand (photo accompaniment), and I will describe the philosophy of the snark. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Where Are They Now: Lost Poets of the 70's

Chow down, chil'ens; it’s that time again. Time for Where Are They Now: Lost Poets of the 70'’s. This week's feast is Mary Shumway. Don'’t let those glasses fool you, this little poetess is naughty. But it wasn’t her skills between the sheets or her trendsetting fashion sense that rocketed Mary to her five minutes of fame. It was lines like these, lines that give new meaning to Keat'’s remark, "“there is no hell like the failure of a great object."” So click on the image to enlarge and follow Mary down “"River Road"” to see what that smile has in store. What say you?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The New Academicism

The old academicism was about old white guys defending the values of New Criticism and old formalism. We're talking poets like Howard Moss, Stanley Kunitz, Richard Howard, Anthony Hecht, W.D. Snodgrass, etc. These poets were academic more for how they wrote than what they wrote about. Their poems emitted the stench of bourgeois comfort. They didn’t seem to get out of the house much, and when they did, they usually walked around in their backyards and had epiphanies while studying their birdfeeders. Sometimes they wrote poems about how righteous they were for not fucking their undergrads. They were poets proud of their anapests. Many of them were foundational in setting up institutions like journal Poetry and the Academy of American Poets, crony machines that continue to this day to pass around the bucks to the same handful of aesthetic clones. They were opposed by the Beats and, more wittily, the early New York School. The academics, in turn, groused at these poets, who, influenced by poor readings of Whitman, Blake, and Henry Miller (Beats) or avant-garde continental European poetry (N.Y.S.), were--so the old academics thought--kneeling before the incorrect totem pole. This generation of academic poets did at least have one virtue: they knew they were essentially academic. They were often narrow, lame, and dull, but they were not hypocrites.

The new academicism is about tenured, middle-aged, neo-bohemians (or in the parlance of James McPherson—“bo-bo’s—the “bohemian bourgeois”). They don’t do drugs or break laws, but they think of themselves as outside the mainstream: smart rebels whose idea of resistance to middle class values is reading Deleuze and turning over in their minds the idea that they are “nomads.” We’re talking poets like Donald Revell, Cole Swenson, Mary Jo Bang, and Susan Howe. These poets are academic more for what they write about than how they write. Like their predecessors, their poems tend to reflect very comfortable lives, and they too don’t seem to get out of the house much, however when they do, it’s not for a meditative stroll in the garden, but for a meditative stroll at M.O.M.A. They are poets proud of their “experimentalism,” however unlike really experimental artists like Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp, their poems are derivative (often of Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp). They too are associated with various crony machines (Swenson, for example, is permanent faculty at Iowa). They are big on “ecphrasis,” “white space,” and obscurity—marveling in poetry about topics like 14th century clerics, early American captivity narratives, and minimalist painters. Sense of humor is not their strong suit. These academic poets do not regard themselves as academic—anything but! They are rebels! (Theoretically speaking of course.) They do however have one virtue over the previous generation of academic poets: they tend to be somewhat snappier dressers.

post-lang po meta-jack bruce said...

I wouldn't want to post a comment in a post that meta-critiques meta-language and meta-bullshit, but...

"Faith in the idea that faith in text that critiques some snark that asks a series of rhetorical questions about a post that meta-snarks with regard to the proposition that meta-language and rhetorical questions are bullshit is total fucking shit, wouldn't you agree?"

Sunday, May 01, 2005

New Peeps at the Snark

Welcome to our two new Snarkers, Ginger Pennebaker and Bill Blood. Yadda, yadda, yadda...

Double-Snark: Meta-language is meta-bullshit, Lame Rhetorical Questions are certainly bullshit

Speaking of vacuity, how about Words About Words and Lame Rhetorical Questions? Mix them together and you've got a recipe for some snarkable quasi-spiritual post-LangPo tripe. Red flags: overuse of the words "word" and "page," combined with the rhetorical question formula "What is [X]?" I'm reminded of a line from J. Graham: "What is / the past?" Um, like, history? Come on, people, I've read so many terrible rhetorical questions lately in poems I may never ask a question again. From now on it's all statements for me. The St. Bernard chewed his rotting meat, etc. Oh, and regarding this meta-langauge issue... Company of Moths (M. Palmer's new offering):Notes for Echo Lake::laundry soap:cocaine. Snark that, post-everything theory junkies!