Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Now, I love James Lileks. His Gallery of Regrettable Food is one of my very favorite things (both in book and web form.) But, oh, his latest column in the Star Tribune raised my hackles!

Lileks is glad that the governor of Minnesota has decided against naming a state poet laureate. He writes
Doesn't mean poetry is useless or lacks intrinsic merit -- but people no longer pretend to laud the poet or his craft. The Poet was once the man who wrestled with the Olympian concepts and brought them down to Earth mortal-sized morsels for the Saturday Evening Post. Poetry was the expression of truth and/or beauty professed through the rigors of language and form. When poetry meant Kipling, it had a certain valor and heft in the public mind. Now, that was a poem. By God it rhymed and you could march to it. Then came the new poets who shed the old styles as a useless encrustation of the old dead past, and they lost their claim on the popular mind. Now poetry was seen as a way to detail the author's tormented, neurotic, indecisive inner life -- by means of gassy exhalations devoid of form or discipline. I should know; I wrote miles of that stuff in college.

So the article is self-deprecating and funny, and I agree when he says "No one ever turns the car around halfway to the picnic because you forgot to pack the sliced sonnets in sauce" (although I might just do that. I wonder what sliced sonnets in sauce taste like...) Still, it makes me sad to see poetry denegrated by both the Bush administration and by hilarious cool authors I admire. And I guess this makes me one of the "extra snooty" poetry snobs he mentions, but I kind of like his tongue-in-cheek riff on New School Poetry (but maybe that's just because it mentions fruit):

I think a poem
Should hang
On the page like an apple
Waiting
To fall into your
Lap
Just like Isaac Newton's revelation
But with arbitrary
Line breaks and an absence of
Punctuation;
Except for emphasis.

3 comments:

Damian McNicholl said...

Gayle,
I love well-crafted poetry as well and do not like or agree with all his opinions. But I will concede that he does have a point about some of tadays poetry. More often than I care to concede, as I've been listening to some poets read from their works or read it on the page, I thing this has absolutely no rhythm, construction, etc. Sometimes I've thought I've walked into the wrong event and am listening to prose being read. Of course, not all readings are like that, but enough to make me think.

Damian McNicholl said...

Gayle,
I love well-crafted poetry as well and do not like or agree with all his opinions. But I will concede that he does have a point about some of todays poetry. More often than I care to concede, as I've been listening to some poets read from their works or read it on the page, I thing this has absolutely no rhythm, construction, etc. Sometimes I've thought I've walked into the wrong event and am listening to prose being read. Of course, not all readings are like that, but enough to make me think.

gayle said...

Hi Damian! Great to hear from you! Thanks so much for your thoughts. I agree--not all poets today pay attention to the rhythms of language (but as long as they're paying close attention to language itself, I tend to be happy!)