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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

LP and flarf

I spent years defending the Language Poets, because I felt their project was valid, that you didn't have to rule it out of bounds, as so many wanted to do.  This was not out of any belief that all these poets were equally good, or that I myself subscribed to those particular doctrines about writing.  I just wanted to defend them because, well, they had some good work that I liked to read. Some of their work doesn't seem so great, in retrospect, but that is inevitable. What I didn't like, in fact, were people dismissing them because they presumably all wrote in the same way, something that was not true at all. Perloff, too, got lots of grief for defending them.

I also defended flarf.  Some of it was because my friends were writing it.  But once again I think I disliked the idiot critiques of it. You can say you don't like it, but you aren't allowed to make idiotic criticisms of it.


Vance Maverick said...

I idly pulled the Cambridge Introduction to Emily DIckinson off the library shelf, thinking I would learn something, get a new angle, etc. (the Modernist Poetry volume in the series was not bad), and was let down. That the quoted texts outshine the commentary on them is not unusual, but the contrast here is especially stark. Then flipping through a few pages on "Dickinson's legacy today" and on the editorial history of the poems, I was genuinely surprised to find no reference -- none, in a book written by an American in 2007 -- to Susan Howe. I know Howe is not exactly a langpoet, but this feels like the same kind of refusal to engage.

Jonathan said...

Howe is usually grouped in with them. And that book is a great one.

I guess the problem of the commentary being outshone by the poetic text is one worth considering. It will always happen, but there is a sense that that discrepancy is especially jarring in some cases. The gives me something to think about. One professor in grad school my first year mentioned that my prose was more graceful than the theory text I was using. That's a way of making yourself look good: quote bad writing. I've argued before that we have an ethical responsibility to write well about poetry in order to do it justice.

Enjoyed your Riding setting, by the way. It must feel great to have a soprano like that give voice to your music.

Vance Maverick said...

Glad you liked the Riding! I'll pass on your comment to the singer.

As an intermittent reader of criticism and books on literature, I don't think I ask that the prose be as well-written as the poetry (so to speak). But the prose needs to clear a certain bar, of always seeming to know what its point is, and using its words with a consistent alertness.