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."


Blogger Adam Hardin said...

What is this school of writing that says that long prosy lines full of personal reflections in a metaphorical hell is good poetry?

its not the sex of my clouds but the muteness that hangs?

What the hell is that crap. That is fucking horrible. Sort of like David Berman except far worse, far less grounded, and far more fluffy and dream-like and detatched.

Stop writing for yourself.

2:38 PM, May 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm telling you, Hardon, if you could only pen the documentation for the correct way to write then you could personally save literature. you could birth american literature from betwixt your own legs Hardon!

2:57 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...


Look, I don't want to have to police these threads. I would prefer not to delete anyone's comments. I'm asking you to stay at least somewhat on topic. Your rantings distract from the focus of these posts and amount, in essence, to flaming (as opposed to snark). Your first comment, for example, in the First Book Poets thread was fine because it had something to do with the post at hand. I'm asking you to quit using these threads for your unrelated rantings. You can snark here if you want, but if you aren't interested in these discussions, or you don't have any good snark, post your rants at your own blog.

4:51 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Agent Trochee said...

Snark, I am afraid that anyone without the intellectual &/or artistic wherewithal to make one decent rant since September 2004 (the founding date of AH's Death of Literature blog is not going to be able to make one comment that is not the crazed drunken barking of a three-legged one-eyed neutered mongrel. I should know because I tried to pet one once when I was visting Henry Dagger when he decided to come ashore one fine weekend; he kept it in a trunk in the lowest cabin. Was a fine beast but had no manners and could not tell the difference between friend or foe due to a lack of depth perception, impaired mobility and much sexual frustration. ah, but at least this dog could smell out a good thing when he smelled it - I don't need to tell you what that might be, aye? Anyway, AH says to "stop writing to yourself"; such a remark may be adjusted to say, "Stop telling a match to set itself on fire." It cannot and will not.

5:41 PM, May 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:17 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Adam Hardin said...

Well, I am sorry that my comments are not acceptable because they get to the heart of the problem.

The funny thing is that you say that only serious reflection is welcome and then you depend on the comments of a fake pirate and a fake englishman.

How about I call myself a caveman and speak in clipped half-sentences?


9:43 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Snark said...


The only reason Dagger chipped in was because of your little spat, and his advice was to take it to his blog. Barron is usually at least somewhat on topic, except when he is talking to or about you. You're the problem.

I didn't say that "only serious reflection is welcome," nor do I feel that way. I simply asked you to make comments that at least have something to do with the post. You can take any tone you want; you can "call yourself a caveman and speak in clipped half-sentences." Just quit derailing these comments sections with totally unrelated rants. This is basic blog behaviour 101. I think you know what I mean.

I'm not going to continue this boring back and forth much longer. I'll just start deleting your rants when they have nothing to do with snark or the post at hand.

12:33 AM, May 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone agree that Dan Chiasson's first book deserves a good snarking?

3:50 AM, May 19, 2005  

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