Sunday, April 14, 2013

Logan Heights

 I think that William Logan is a passable formalist  poet .  That’s all I can say abou the man’s efforts to write memorable verse, as there is  the sort of straining you detect that makes you think of someone conspicuously hurting themselves trying to make the heavy lifting their doing appear effortless. You could say that his poems are as poetic as a hernia, which is fine for those who love hernias and their propensity to make bodies bulge in extrusions of varied grotesquerie  I  give him credit , however, for fashioning as a nicely cutting prose style and a talent for the put down. It doesn'tmatter that you disagree with him, think wrong headed or willfully provocative; like the chronically snarky John Simon or the brilliantly acerbic polemics from the late William F. Buckley, he is fun to read . It’s  not a little like rooting for the villain in a professional wrestling match, or slowing down to gawk at a bad auto accident. Ill will and unkind cuts, real or show biz artifice, are what get and keep our attention. His remarks, though, rather too quickly revert to sarcasm, albeit sarcasm of a elevated sort; you wish he'd deal less with surface attributes of a poem and delve into thinking that is more off the charted course.


His review of the most recent work of British  Poet Laureate  Carol Ann Duffy .
is a prize example of Logan 's  synapses firing in the service of frontal assault. I wouldn't mind normally, since Duffy's work interests me not at all; I'd rather consider draining a cesspool than be obliged to read her treacle. Logan, though, goes on too long and too loudly over the word  "swooned". Sarcasm crowds out a subtler tact, it crowds out real criticism. There’s no doubt that Logan knows why he thinks the word is useless as a matter of practical poetry-making –a man as resourceful with cadence and comment as Logan cannot help  but be plagued with many an interesting idea. A paycheck , though, favors the fastest typist, and so his notions are turned into compact little landmines that go off quick, loud, one after another. All   that boom, pow, and kabam  grates to an extent and you  find yourself taking a deep breath and letting it out loudly , overwhelming the noise of the wisecracks ; you wish he’d taken a deep breath himself and explained his thinking more fully with the rest of the class.

"Swooned" is a perfectly fine word for a poet to make use of; Logan's error in that he implies that the term is hopelessly dated because it is of another era, an example of old fashioned sort of poetry. He'd have been on firmer ground had he argued that it is a word that needs to be in the hands of a poet with an ear for newer and older lexicons. For myself, I'd have no problem using "swooned" regardless of its age because it has a beautiful , melodic, fluid sound, and it's effectiveness needn't be consigned to the post-modern habit of knee jerk modernism to justify its use. Straight forward or ironic, it is a fine word and what matters, really , are the language the poet musters up--is there a sequence of well chosen images and metaphors, agile word choices that service a scenario--and the efficacy of the perceptions and attendant emotional resonances. Regular people in every day speech mix their terms, old, new, obscure, clear as glass, all the time and I don't see why some words are banned merely because they are no longer favored for common use. The point is the sound of the word and the effectiveness of its deployment; talent matters most of all. Carol Ann Duffy isn't that poet , but Logan isn't the man to tell anyone what ought not be done.