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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Thébaïde

I read my first Racine, an early work reputed to be be weak called Thébaïde.  (I've read Phedre before too, but I mean with my new Racine project.) My idea is to be a silent expert on Racine. In other words, just do everything an expert would do except write about it (except on this blog).

I guess I'll have to read other neoclassical dramas, since a Racine specialist would have done this. The logical first step though would be to read the primary texts in chronological order, then figure out what Racine scholars think about it.

The characters just sit there and talk. They argue their positions. Everyone dies in the end, ignoring the incidents in Sophocles's Antigone. The women pursue peace (Jocasta, Antigone); the men war.  Creon is in love with Antigone and kills himself after she kills herself, so all the major characters are gone.  Not an elegant solution, since then you can't write another play in which Antigone tries to bury Polynices.

The vocabulary is easy. Everything is pretty clear and self-evident.

Friday, August 11, 2017

sorta

In a long interview DeBoer uses "sort of" as conversational hedge / filler more times that I can count. He is otherwise articulate, never at a loss for words, confident of his opinions. The hedge doesn't really hedge anything, since its distribution seems random; it doesn't fill time, since it is spoken very rapidly and if taken out would not reduce the duration of the utterance in any significant way. He doesn't seem nervous, so that's not the explanation. He has a few more "uh..." "right?" but they aren't intrusive like the omnipresent "sortofs."

It must be very hard to get rid of a verbal tic like that. My students, when speaking Spanish, put in the word like (in English!) constantly, without even any awareness that they are doing it.

Reading

I will read hundreds of books while writing one. Most will not not even relevant to the one I am writing. I am not complaining about this ratio: it seems correct to me.

Writing is time-consuming and intensive. I only expect to write two more books after turning in Lorca II. Seven books is a respectable career, but someone writing those will have read thousands of other books.  

Today I came across a quote by James Schuyler about Lorca's "tedious lament for a dead bullfighter, whose every second line is 'a las cinco de la tarde.'" This is hilarious to me. At least one American poet could find Lorca tedious.  What a relief!  Of course I wish I had come across the quote earlier, since it was in a book I owned the whole time I was working on Lorca's impact on American poets.  I think I'll have to worm it in somewhere in another book.


AMBITION

To say of the young man he is ambitious...

Yet none is able to say what those ambitions are...

Virtue as a contest

I was listening to a recent FIRE podcast, an interview with Freddy DeBoer.  DeBoer makes the point that virtue is competitive in social media. To compete with others to arrive at a more virtuous position involves evolving to ever more "ridiculous" positions. One example he uses is the idea that the phrase "I see what you mean" is "ableist" in its exclusion of blind people.

If virtue is a competition, it is a competition for social status. DeBoer also points out that contemporary "intersectionality" on college campuses tends to leave out class. Why? Because these are people who are in a privileged, largely upper-middle class cocoon.  

Another point he makes is that the university administrator's cause is not social justice, but the avoidance of conflict and legal liability. Thus the administrator might give in the social justice demands, but usually for the wrong reason.

It is refreshing because many defenses of free inquiry have been coming from the right, recently. We need to insist that freedom of speech is a left-wing cause. What good does it do to censor pro-Trump views on campus when Trump is actually the fucking president?  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Google thyself

I guess I missed this book by Stephen Kessler when it came out.  I should check out this book from the library:

Like Frida Kahlo, a perfectly good painter turned into amarketing gimmick for t-shirts, co ee mugs and other kitschytchotchkes, García Lorca—as Mayhew demonstrates—has been diminished and caricatured through his conversion into a domestic American icon, reduced to a duende-driven folksy Gypsy Negrophilic primitive hipster gay surrealist whom various factions and individuals jump to exploit at their convenience for their own sectarian and personal purposes. Lorca the actual poet and his work, meanwhile, remain unplumbed even as they are appropriated tirelessly by their admirers. While I was read-ing Mayhew’s book a journal arrived in the mail, the Coe Review,a student-edited publication from Coe College in Iowa, which included a poem by Lyn Lifshin—a prolific  small-press poet published widely over the last four decades—called “Sleeping with Lorca,” which begins: “It’s not true, he never chose women. / I ought to know. It was Grenada [sic] and / the sun falling behind the Alhambra was / aming lava...” The poem goes onto recycle “green I want you green” and “5 o’clock in the af-ternoon” and various other now-cliché Lorquismos including“gored bull” metaphors for sex, as if to illustrate the half-baked stereotypical Lorca exploitation Mayhew spends much of hisbook exposing, and which, as Lifshin proves, continues. 

Lyn Lifshin used to send us a packet of poems every week, when I was a student on the editorial board of my college literary journal, California Quarterly.  


For me, however, Mayhew’s identi cation of Frank O’Hara as perhaps the truest American avatar of Lorca—not so much in the poetry itself as in their “kinship” as charismatic, mercu- rial, gay, jazz-infused, risk-taking, elegiac, prematurely mortal personalities each at the center of a vibrant creative scene—is one of his shrewdest observations. This kind of intuitive leap makes for the liveliest and riskiest criticism. One of Mayhew’s strengths is that he’s not afraid to be wrong; he has a distinct point of view and acknowledges his personal angle of vision. For all his deeply felt conviction, he makes no Harold Bloomian or Helen Vendleroid pronouncements from the peak of Parnas- sus. His style is refreshingly free of intellectual pomposity or jargon. Not least important, for someone interested as I am in the subject, his book is fun to read. 

Prosody

Counting syllables is one way of keeping track.

Some care whether you skip a beat or not.  

There are treatises.  

Others talk endlessly of measure

But don't seem to keep tally of amounts or quantities.