Notes inspired/spurred on by reading Mark Edmundson’s essay “Poetry Slam: Or, The decline of American verse” in the July 2013 issue of Harper’s magazine.
1. Another Fucking Essay of Complaint, all directed toward the writerly impulse: the autobiographical impulse.
1a. He’s right. But other people are also right.
2. But c’mon: classic American-versus-Europe-genteel-tradition tropes in 3, 2, 1…
3. Sure, to employ Emerson as an anti-Emerson is clever. Let’s call for American poets to be more European!
4. “Metre-making argument” is about sound, not meaning.
5. It’s precisely about ambiguity.
6. Heaney’s boobs’ nipples getting hard in the cold wind—what argument does that make?
7. Anne Carson is talking about the mind/body problem, about eros, about life as sometimes too much to bear. She is not talking about the merits of becoming a FRICKING cyborg.
8. We can make meaning from a technical manual as well as a poem. The trick is is pleasure, extravagance.
9. I agree that so many of our poets don’t have anything to say. There. I said it.
9a. But having something to say (i.e., material, sense, mission) is not the same as ambition. Ambition, from the Latin ambitionem, means to go around, its cousin-word ambient. To be somewhere.
9b. Poetry doesn’t need honor, doesn’t need ambition. Poetry doesn’t need to be anywhere. It already is everywhere.
10. (And here we fall into the same ‘Two Cultures’ shtick, the evergreen desire to make poetry a science, an objective and researched double-blind, placebo-controlled report. Philosophy has already gone down that road, picking apart connotations’ carrion. It’s a fool’s game mapping out experience as if there was some unified field to arrive at.)
11. Maybe the majority of American poets in their 50s, 60s, and 70s have retreated from mass culture and swinging for the fences.