Guess Can't Gallop
The devolution of the example of Gertrude Stein is a sad thing to behold. Where Stein's work manifested a constant meditative attention to language and the nuances of its polysemy, today's Steinophiles present us with mechanical parades of puns. Where Stein's sense of humor was always more sexy and snarky and subtle than anyone around her -- recall her famous description of Ezra Pound as being "a village explainer, excellent if you are a village, but if you are not, not" -- today's Steinians come off as minor court wits, unwilling to offer anything vaguely threatening or pointed for fear that it might offend the ruling powers behind hiring committees and grant applications. And where Stein's poems ranged from the compressed gems of Tender Buttons to sprawling testaments to her endlessly generative imagination like The Geographical History of America and Stanzas in Meditation, today's Frankensteiner's are one-trick ponies riding their little rocking horses o'er the plains. Now along comes Brenda "squeaky" Hillman's pick for the New Issues Poetry Prize, Heidi Lynn StaplesSomethings he forgets what is a Fish; / The others joke that he is hard of Herring." We get faux metaphysics: "The zero was where anyone is. None by none, / worlds grew off, and that should have told me / somebody." And we get a monotonous stream of colloquialisms put through the wringer of cookie-cutter sound associations like: "coming up for err," "it was her whirred against mine," and "our father who arts in thieving." I'm not kidding -- her linguistic "play" is that obvious and simple-minded. Yet Joyelle McSweeney at The Constant Ass-kissing calls Staples' technique in these poems "Shakespearean," Deanne Lundin claims she "skirts the unspeakable," and LangPo's least amusing hack, Charles Bernstein, heralds her "relentless pursuit of swerving meaning." This is what poetry criticism has come to in this country: somebody manages to publish her extended poetic knock-knock jokes in a book, and we're told to compare it to Shakespeare... Yeah, right. "Skirts the unspeakable," "Shakespearean." Gotcha.
Heidi's lint staples can't even hold down the dust. Too right in this tile is a Pisa cake. You jest-steak sum words an you no watt two due: change them too wons that sound like the wands you had be fore, butt which mine different things.
So here's to you High-D Ho! As a poet, you are a tedious pun-pusher, but I'll say this much for you: I'll bet you would make a formidable player of corny word games. May I never cross your path in a Mad Lib tournament. You would kick my ass.