Friday, April 29, 2005

Off-topic Topic Snark

Admittedly, this is a little off-topic, but lyrics are almost poetry, right? (OK, not really.) Well, it's language. Or, at least, it involves language. OK, I give up, this has nothing to do with snarking poetry, but it is--I promise--the funniest thing you've seen in a long time. Everyone reading this should go to the following site to watch this "patriotic" video. You will be stunned by its awfulness. Flabbergasted, you will spit your coffee at the monitor. You will destroy several thousand brain cells just watching it, but it's worth it: imagine Michael Bolton singing with Whitesnake as his back-up band in a video directed by Phil Collins with lyrics written by Tom Delay. Well, actually, that's being a little too kind. And this is no joke. It's "real." Here's the link: http://www.americawestandasone.com/video.html

update: Mark Morford at the San Francisco Gate offers some in-depth snark.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Don't blink poetry fans. That's right, it's time for another installment of Poetry Snark's exciting new series, Where Are They Now: Lost Poets of the 70's. This week's feature poet is David Allen Evans (click on the image to enlarge). Completing our "Sideburns Diptych" with Thomas Brush, Mr. Evans has more turtle-like hair, a more penetrating gaze, and, oh yeah, this poem.

Use the comments section to coax out the genius of his verse, or to tell us where David is now. David, you out there? What the fuck are you staring at in this photo? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Karen Volkman - Vacancy's Ambassador

American poetry is crazy about the prose poem. Even more than your drippings of Billy Collins or beefsteaks of Albert Goldbarth, the prose poem, big or little, is showing its twisted ass all over the dance floor. As if doing the literary equivalent of that spazz-dance of Elaine's from Seinfeld were a good thing, the prose poem insists upon its significance by becoming the it form in contemporary poetry. If only its convolutions & permutations were of Pootie Tang proportions. Sure, there are some prose poets I might keep from clubbing with my cane but each and every one will get it sooner or later.

Karen Volkman is one of the many poets endeavoring to slip us the mickey of prose poetry in high hopes we might be intoxicated by its lilting dumbness. Everyone who likes her book Spar must be on the same drugs though they all seem to be on different terms about how fast the books moves; slow? fast? Reminds me of those stoners in college with their Keith Jarrett LPs (yeah, you too Mr. Brush, i gots yo numba) who think it's good shit no matter what speed the record spins at. Unlike Jarrett, Volkman is no genius of improvisation or even of practiced hoodwinking. When an entire book of untitled prose sections is a winding road of cliche and prepackaged illumination, you can be sure little to none of it is memorable. Volkman is the "prevalent predator" of good intentions in prose poetry's empty enterprise. At least with Gertrude Stein I get the impression of bohemian silliness, a hint of absinthe tomfoolery. With Russell Edson I get to relive my mushroom days but Volkman's serious attempt at materiality, at humor, at innovation, is, well, I'd rather be shaving with a hot coal.

Volkman even comments in an interview about how prose poetry and her poems sometimes struck her as "impermeable, hideous bricks"; she drags Rosemarie Waldrop in the mix by mentioning how Waldrop calls working with prose poetry's inner disjunctions as "gap-gardening". Oh, for heaven's sake. If by gap one means nothing and by brick we mean a good solid piece of shit, well, then Karen Volkman is "vacancy's ambassador", harbinger of nothingness (I just hope the boy in this story has a luck dragon at his side and the good sense to say "I love you" when the time comes or we're all screwed), her voice "a song that is stranger than wind", a foul foul wind, no Mama, that ain't no sun coming out that ass, it's Karen Volkman and her brick factory.

Collage Poetry is Bullshit

How many times have we heard that collage technique is the signature method of post-modernity? Let me translate: "I can’t think of a very good line, so I’m going to steal somebody else’s shit. Then I’m going to lionize my theft by thinking of it as post-modern. I’m going to recycle somebody else’s novel or poem or whatever 'discourse' and benight it under my Barthesian halo."


The whole “culture of belatedness” routine is a theoretical contrivance. All of the noise about the “death of the author” and the “death of literature” and the “death of the notion of originality” is a load of apocalyptic camel dung. These people remind me of those Fundamentalist stormtroopers prophesying the end of the world, only instead of being evangelical Christians, they are evangelizing the latest-greatest French post-whogivesafuck. Every generation of artists has had their faction that felt like they had arrived “too late” to produce work the way their predecessors did—and so had to find some new method. That’s fine, if it really produces a new method. Your computer’s cut-and-paste function ain't it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Equal Opportunity Snark

We here at Poetry Snark are committed to diversity. Prove it you say? Here's the deal: this is an open invitation for anybody reading this post to become a front page contributor here at the Snark. We get three gazillion hits a day--that's two and a half gazillion more than Silliman gets. That's not much for a porn site, but it rocks for a poetry blog. This is your chance to get on board before we make it bigger than Salon, Dailykos, and Vaginabot combined. I don't care what you snark--any writer, any school, any time period. Whoever sends the tastiest snark wins. Me, Agent Trochee, and our new friend, T. Brush, will judge. Email me or post in the comments section. You have two weeks. I'll announce the winner and post the winning snark (along with any worthy runners up) two weeks from tomorrow. Send to: poetrysnark [AT] gmail [DOT] com

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Thomas Brush Responds

Apparently nonplussed by the honor of being Poetry Snark's first "where are they now?" poet of the 70's, Mr. Brush posted the following comment to my previous entry. I thought Mr. Brush deserved the further honor of front page air time, so I am repeating his comment here (if you haven't already seen it, you will want to scroll down and read the previous post first) :

"I, Poetry Snark, am Thomas Brush. And if you think this is humor--posting a dated photo of me along with a rather sentimental snippet of my verse--then you are a comedic milksop. First of all, that was no soft verse of whimsy--that was a poem about my brother, Keith Brush, and his brush with death at the hands of the VC. His face was nearly removed, not by LSD--like mine--but by bloodthirsty vietnamese whores. When one of them demanded more money than they'd bargained for she pulled a razor-blade out of her ear (where she'd been hiding it) and tried to slice the smile from Keith's countenance--forever! If this is to be snarked at-- you're insane! I should command the tigers of my verse to pulp your brains, Poetry Snark!

I only came upon this site because I was googling myself to find out how I did at the greater Oregon taffy festival-- for those of you who are my TRUE friends and admirers, and whom I have lost touch with, I may as well let you know--from the horse's mouth, as it is-- how I am doing and what I spend my days working on: I am a taffier, primarily, and a poet secondarily. Star Horse and I have been married 21 years and Brian is heading off to Oregon State next year to study environmental databasing. I live a quiet life. I carve, I taffy, I canoe and hike and moonlight as an amateur granola alchemist. I keep busy. Star Horse writes her boondoggles. We're getting into back-rubbing. Jogging is out--knees. I relax, I think. Lately Brian teaches me computers. They're fascinating. Brian is great. I'm working on a long poem about my family. I don't know what shape it's gonna take but it's shaping up. I like to think of poetry like a tree made of sugar--or my brain like that sugar tree, melting in the sun, taffying all of Oregon with a pale ribbon of nonchalance and impromptu synergies. If the Poetry Snarkers have a problem with that, too bad for them and I hope they can be happy in life. I really do.

Bon chance everyone,

Thomas Brush


Welcome to our newest feature here at Poetry Snark: American Poets of the 70s: Where are They Now? Our first feature poet is Thomas Brush (no, I made up neither that name, nor that haircut). Click on the image to enlarge (if you dare). Use the comments section to read / critique his poem, or to tell us where Mr. Brush is now.
Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sleeping with Merriam Webster

The title of Harryette Mullen's book, Sleeping with the Dictionary, is an inadvertant self-indictment of post-post-L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry's relationship to eros and the human body--that is to say, it doesn't exist. Lang Po's do it with dictionaries ...

Friday, April 22, 2005


The Book of the Grateful Dead Man, by Marvin Bell. "What is that I see / on yonder cliff? / A windswept mountain goat? Richard Wilbur's / butt?" Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Spencer Reece - another confessional bore

Spencer Reece, far from being a careerist poet like the sort that Snark hates so much, is one of many new names to bat about. Unlike most new names, he is not in his 30s or 20s, does not belong to the Iowa or Brooklyn or some other scene that breeds namey names but he is homosexual, gay, what-have-you. He is quite fond of James Merrill, dresses snappy and has a soft voice. He looks like Henri Cole's little brother and Cole even vouched for him as a new important voice on a feature for the Academy of American Poets. Cole even goes so far to claim that "[t]hough the thought of Spencer Reece working unratified in isolation for twenty years is troubling to me, in an increasingly homogeneous and academic poetry community, it seems a triumphant destiny for this poet." Holy shit! Is he kidding? I am afraid not though one has to wonder what Cole means by all that. I am not even sure what folks mean by "academic poetry" though last I heard, Cole is slumming it at Bennington & Smith, not to mention he has been anointed by Harold Bloom, lapped up by Helen Vendler and even given the Kingsley Tufts ($100,000!!!) for his bedazzling dollar store solipsism Middle Earth. (Agent Trochee will admit he likes most of it and was disappointed by Franz Wright getting the Pulitzer instead but that is for another day).

Anyway, Spencer Reece. Too bad he sucks eggs. After all, how many more poets do we need clanging pots about scenery, being gay in the country or in the city, the endless variations of being boring? In an interview in the New Yorker, Alice Quinn has the audicity to relate Reece's work to a quote taken from a letter by Elizabeth Bishop: "What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration." Reece gladly takes the bait and states that he attempted to follow Bishop's resistance to her dark side but he misses the point. Whereas Bishop takes on the grandness of life & humanity by squaring the details and carrying over the transcendant, Reece flounders in the stink of his sexuality, in the tailored banality of his useless concentration, hardly forgetful of himself.

Spencer Reece! You get Agent Trochee's stamp of snark. Your trim look, your shiny black shoes, your canary voice, your George Herbert-James Merrill worshipping ass, your Mall of Americas-Minnesota backwoods ornamented poems, these we add to the altar of snark. May you and your pens run dry.

This will never do

Writing in the Edinburgh Review in 1814, Francis Jeffrey began his review of Wordsworth's The Excursion with the following sentence: "This will never do." Ah, what magisterial disdain! What snark! He was right, of course, Wordsworth's turgid blank verse sucked some major ass in this particular effort, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the overwhelming majority of poetry published today. Yet will we read such an honest and amusing review as Jeffrey's? I think not. You've heard of grade inflation? Well, today's poetry world suffers from review inflation. Everything published is wonderful, we would have to believe, if reviewers of contemporary poetry were telling the truth. Even the slightest hint of ambivalence is regarded as utter condemnation by today’s thin-skinned wimps, who crumble before the slightest whiff of disapproval. The reason for the ubiquitous niceness of today's reviews is quite clear: it's a culture of cronyism. Everyone is worried that the person being reviewed might be on some hiring or award committee that the reviewer will someday have to face, so backs are patted, and the praise is duly dished. Well not here at Poetry Snark. We are planning an upcoming series of reviews that will curdle the bowels of dilettantes everywhere. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Abuse of the term "experimental"

Reading reviews and blurbs, you would think that about half of all poetry being published today is either "experimental," "avant-garde," or both. Spreading words around on the "white space" of the page to mask a bad line? You're experimental. Writing in a disjunct style that imitates the language poets? You're experimental. Playing with sounds in the manner of Gertrude Stein? You're experimental. Dislocating an essentially Romantic speaking voice onto various subject positions like Ashbery? You're experimental. The only thing more clichéd than being "experimental" is being a flat autobiographical realist. And vice versa.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Foetry lawsuit

The other day I read that some whiner is trying to sue the Iowa Writers' Workshop for running an unfair book contest. I think it was one of the humorless geeks from foetry.com. Wait! You mean the faculty at IWW engage in academic cronyism! Stop the fucking presses. You mean you sent them your manuscript and a check and they didn't pick YOU. You mean--my god--you actually trusted the IWW faculty to impartially read those manuscripts dredged up from the pile? Sucker.

Who has the worst poetry voice?

Answer: Brenda Hillman. While the breathy, generic poetry voice of poets like Joy Harjo and Sharon Olds really sucks, you haven't heard a truly annoying reader until you've heard Brenda Hillman. It's bad enough that she's a second-rate, bourgeois "experimental" poet sucking on the desiccated teat of Language Poetry. Yes, that is bad enough. But Hillman reads poetry as if auditioning for a Chipmunk’s revival band. Does this woman suck down a helium balloon before reading, or is her voice really that nasal? Is this a cultivated thing? Some misguided effort to distinguish herself from other poets who read in a voice that sounds, well, human? A Brenda Hillman reading is worth attending for a few minutes just to hear how stupendously awful her reading voice is. But be sure to sit in the back row, as close to the exit as possible.