Sunday, September 7, 2008

Circular Modernism

By Ted Burke
Ron Rosenbaum of Slate has an interesting piece this week called “In Praise of Praise of the Praise of Poetry”, in which he offers a sarcastic tone for the those poets who’s blurbs for other poets sound better than the work they are ostensibly lauding. He means it in a bemused fashion, and declares with a half-sober voice that perhaps this is a literary genre in itself, newly emerging, to be taken on its own terms. Rosenbaum means to be ironic, but he does touch on a point that many readers, myself among them, are at times confounded by lines that are either too abstract and distanced to attempt to enter , or the reverse, too inane, obvious and , honestly, pretentious an imbelcilic to bother wasting another lost minute reading, so we go for our big guns and produce alot of steam to talk around a particular poet's work. There is something artful in the way one learns to cram a string of reworked buzz phrases into sentences have a true elegance; what this really is, I think, is the blurbist following up on his own thinking who is using the nominal praise of another poet as a dry run for perhaps a longer, self-indentifying manifesto they might be readying for that mythological creature, the poetry audience. In some odd fashion we have parallel text going past one another , trains whose contents share nothing but a brief stretch of land where the tracks are laid.

It had been remarked that one of the purposes of the deconstructive method was to banish binary oppositions and the requirements that some forms of text production, ie writing, are subservient to another, with the particular (and vested) interested in elevating criticism to the same level as the literary text it elucidates. Intertextuality has looped an octopus arm around another pillar of conventional thinking. e now have a new form, circular--modernism. It's been ba.d enough that we've had to suffer a generation of dull poets writing poems about poetry (PAP) where the subject seems to be either the poet as sensitive being channeling the variety of vibes that the rest of us cannot discern, or the inability of poetry to "get" at the exactness of the moment. These folks are quiet, reflective, with not a thing to say other than they like the sounds words make when there aren’t any ideas percolating.

Now we have writing in praise of writing about poetry. There is a good amount of log rolling here, with more than a clutch of poets intent on not giving away the game on which careers and reputations are built on, but one does admire the adroit skill that gets applied to the least interesting of the least tangible . What is even more interesting is that a good amount of the essays exclaiming the value of these poets under nominal review don't actually explain how the poets are successful at their tasks; more often we get an examination as to the poet's intention, and then a long run in eloquence describing results that I , for one, witness too little.

I ought not generalize too much poets remarking on the work of other poets, since there is a difference between actual criticism-- evaluation based on close inspection--and the sort of careerist suck-upping one finds on the back of new books. There is the idea that some wag had put forwarded about poets who put forth their own theories about they and their associates do; the theory is more interesting than the poetry it discusses. It is, often enough, more poetic, in the sense that one is prompted to read the theory again, relish the fascinating phrases and decided defamiliarizations and attempt on their own to assemble points the writers are going for. Writing that provokes someone to cogitate cannot be called wholly unsuccesful.