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Monday, March 31, 2003

Slate's been busy while I've been slacking, posting a poem by Peter Campion on Tuesday, a piece on Dante by Adam Kirsch on Wednesday, and a review of the Pope's poetry by Dan Chiasson on Friday. Unfortunately for my mood last week, the poem was the least interesting of the three.

Dan Chiasson writes about the Pope's poems that they are "rather good, in the way most celebrity poetry is rather good," because "Celebrities dare to risk sentimentality, a lesson many contemporary poets, with their studied aridities, could learn." That pretty much sums up the problem with Peter Campion's "Other People," written in mostly 5-beat, meterless, unrhymed tercets. It begins with the dead coming up the lawn "in a dream" and ends with the speaker brushing his teeth--at least I think that's what's meant by "pulling the chalky paste across my teeth." Everything is distanced; nothing has consequence. It was only a dream. I wish. But Chiasson himself, despite great lines in the review like "Jimmy Stewart's [poetry] sounded, in places, like the T.S. Eliot of 'Burnt Norton,'" doesn't have anything googlable worth writing home about. I'm still in a bitchy mood, aren't I?

On the other hand, Adam Kirsch, who writes for the New York Sun and used to write for The New Republic, is a fine poet. I haven't bought his The Thousand Wells only because the impulse and the money have not yet coincided. But I was disapppointed (still bitchy) in the article. Kirsch says poets love "a postmodern Dante, a text that each reader collaborates in writing," a Dante who has "power but not authority," who is "a great artist but not a commanding model, and certainly not a compelling religious example," a Dante who "fits perfectly with the eclectic spirit of contemporary poetry, in which no one style is dominant and each poet must invent his own language and idiom." We ordinary folk, says Kirsch, read Dante because we are "accustomed to thinking in images almost more than in words" and Dante had a "curiously modern sense of violent spectacle" and because "Dante could imagine vivid bodily tortures because he believed completely in the soul; our world inflicts those tortures because it doesn't believe in the soul at all."

More interesting is Kirsch's brief summary of Eliot's essay "Dante." The essay's online--go read it.


8:52:17 PM    comment: use html tags for formatting []  trackback []

First let me apologize for not posting anything here in the last week or so, partly because I've just been offered a new job (still far from home) and the preparations, interviews, and consultations with my wife have eaten up what little free time I had. But the main thing is that the poetry mailing lists and other internet poetry sources have been so full of unreasoning hatred for President Bush and for coalition troops that I've been unable to think about poetry and poets without feeling nearly nauseous.

I'm a lifelong Democrat. I marched against the war in Viet Nam. I think the ineptitude and arrogance of Bush and Chirac have made a war which might have been avoided inevitable, and I think that, if Gore had been elected, we would either not be fighting or we would be fighting with UN approval. But I also think that, after it became clear the Security Council would not approve military action under any circumstances, the US, UK, and other coalition forces had no choice but to go ahead on their own. And I do not understand the hatred many liberals have for Bush, any more than I understand the hatred many conservatives have for Clinton. Both are blinded by their passion.

I promise that's the last politics you'll get from me here. You're welcome to post comments, but I won't answer.


7:58:09 PM    comment: use html tags for formatting []  trackback []

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