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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...

Friday, June 10, 2016

over compensation

For example, I would not think I know enough chords or keys, and compose songs in abstruse keys with lots of weird chords added in, and then I realized that most songs by excellent songwriters are only in a few basic keys. My simpler songs are no worse than my overly convoluted ones. When I wanted to be a poet when I was 12 I got this book called the poetry handbook by Babette Deutsch and learned everything in it. I was kind of shocked when I began college five years later and students in creative writing classes didn't know what a Villanelle was. When I was into Bolaño a few years ago I read every book he wrote. Before graduate school I thought I didn't know enough so I read every book I could find by a boom novelist. Then of course the boom fell out of favor with Latin Americanists and never really recovered. I once had a project that involved reading thousands of books of poetry. If I find a poet I like I check out all the books and read them instead of just being contented with the poems in the anthology that led me to her. I hate "Selected Poems." Give me the Complete Poems.

I never think I've read enough, so I over-compensate. I'm pretty much a "completista" in things that matter to me. I've explored many ways of making coffee and I've owned multiple types of hat. I binge watch series I don't even like that much.

I took the Greek Workshop and Berkeley right before attending grad school. My dad had the idea that I should go to Oxbridge and get an MA in Classics before getting a PhD. I loved classics, but not the way classics were taught by grammar translation. The thought a Latin teacher and teaching the ablative absolute was not what I envisioned for my self. I didn't go for his idea, but I did study 10 weeks of intensive Greek, enough to start to read Euripides and Plato. Since I was going to graduate student to be a Modernist I promptly forgot Greek.

If I was happy with my self I wouldn't have to do any of this, but my relationship to myself has always been bad. All my successes, too, arise from unhappiness.


profacero said...

There is a very great deal to be said for being a completista. In fact I don't think you can be serious if you are not.

I also don't think the boom should have fallen out of favor, there are several things from that era that have and it is like deciding Eliot or Pound are minor writers, you know?

Jonathan said...

I don't know the last time someone taught García Márquez in my department. At one time that seemed to be the reason to go into Spanish. At least it was for me, along with Neruda and Lorca, of course.