Wednesday, September 9, 2020


 Why does anyone make boring art, since you’re asking. The poets who write boring verse are most of the people who fancy themselves word slingers of that sort—quantity diminishes quality. It seems that most of the poems one comes across from new poets in whatever forum—magazine, open reading, workshop, high school newspaper, university press— are pretty much eccentric minds with pedestrian sense of language application who want to capture big ideas, big emotions and big spiritual concepts in pathetically clunky sentences , often choking their best ideas to death with overworked metaphors , unmusical similes and a fatal lack of self awareness as to whether what they spend so much time writing is something an actual reader beyond their circle of friends might want to read. We also suffer from the tone deaf experimenters who want to be abstract, avant gard and boldly innovative who haven’t the slightest idea of how to be interesting in an opaque way. 

John Ashbery, Bob Perelman, Leslie Scalapino, Gertrude Stein—they were hard to understand as poets go, but they were lively , innovative and striking in their styles and and habits of phrase making, and they are the exceptions to the idea that most avant gard poetry, as such, is abstract for its own sake and therefore useless and a grind. 

Ashbery I enjoy because I don't understand what he's getting at but I adore the way he tries to get "there"; no one else has done a better job at doing the kid of writing that vividly presents the streaming thought process of an alert intelligence interacting with the material world , with the thick bramble of half-formed recollections in the unspoken realm of the mind coloring and characterizing the ideal form of the exterior world, and the place, thing, person in turn triggering a wave of nearly related associations from farthest corner of memory , a wave of fascinating distractions. 

Perelman because he is a satirist of broad reading and culture consumption who prizes the power of the non-sequitur who composes with the voice of an ostensibly sane, rational persona speaking calmly to a crowd who soon enough is talking of subjects and policies of High, Middle and Low culture that overlap each other and seemingly redirect and real point or insight to a fathomless ocean of babble. Perelman appreciates that the voice of authority utters non-sequitur s at all times and that it takes very a gentle tug at the string to make the words go to war with each other rather than  cooperate . 

Scalapino I find brilliant, endlessly engrossing because he subject is memory and image, she is a very personal poet ,but a poet not inclined to contain her perceptions in cans of predigested resolution. Rather, her verse is chopped up, cut up, sharp and angular, repetitive to the extent what one considers an image, a sentence, from a multitude of angles, perspectives, a set of images and memories appearing and vanishing, details added and others removed or diminished in size and emphasis. There is a strong visual sense to Scalapino's writing, an element akin to the the work of the Cubists who wanted to create paintings in which the world is not merely recreated to formal rules of composition but rather seen all at once, immediately, denying the convenience of narrative templates to define experience and make it instead inert aesthetic material. I rather like the restless discord that rumbles over Scalapino's pages. 

Then there are the poets who are bored and brandishing an unearned cynicism ,boring readers of poetry who render judgement that typically amount to “meh”. These folks are a species of glum Gusses and Gussies who might as well be flipping the TV channels .

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