Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium :
poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz
Updated: 6/26/08; 9:08:07 PM.



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Monday, March 29, 2004

Thanks to the IRS and my own laziness, I come late to the discussion of trobar clus started last week by Ron Silliman. The comments (no way to link to a javascript at another blog) are pretty good, and Henry Gould points out the major flaw in Ron's thesis that writing for a closed elite is the way to excellence. Still, there are a few outrageous claims in that post that have yet to be addressed, and once every two months or so I just can't resist my own tilt at the windmill. I'll be brief, because it's late.

  • It is nonsense to claim that one form of art can relieve another of the some part of its responsibilities. Just what responsibility can a form of art possibly have? Artists may have responsibilities—to their children, their partners, their jobs, their nation, the human race (stop me before I get to the planet)—but not to their art and not to any function that art may perform in a culture. They don't even have the responsibility to try to communicate with the rest of us. But the rest of us have no responsiblity to pay attention, either, and any artist who chooses to create only for the elite, whether poet or music video director, ought not to be surprised when ignored.
  • It is spectacular nonsense to claim that a poet who chooses to use already developed forms wants "the world [or poetry] to be made as it 'always' seemed to be." Did writing sonnets mean that Milton wanted the world to be as it was when Shakespeare wrote? How about Wordsworth and Milton? Robinson and Wordsworth? Hacker and Robinson? It's true that Antler seems like Ginsberg reheated in a microwave, but that could be just Antler's personal failure, or, more likely, it could be that the structures Ginsberg developed simply don't have the formal depth to support the great variety possible in a sonnet. Villanelles, for instance, don't have that depth.
  • It is willful nonsense to continue to claim that there is any direct connection between a poet's politics and poetics. If his friends Marylin Hacker and Annie Finch aren't sufficient evidence, he could look at those old radicals Eliot and Pound and Rimbaud. But the evidence doesn't fit the politics, so to hell with the evidence. It reminds me of George W. Bush.

And as for Ron's post today:

"Behold the School of Quietude!"
Cries Silliman, but nothing's there
To front his fiery attitude—
A name is sometimes just hot air.
And what conclusion might be drawn?
He leads the School of Phlogiston.

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