Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Monday, April 11, 2011

Regents, Freaks & Ghosts

  • The Content Regent

    A Content King or Content Queen is one who believes in substance over form. Typically, a Content Regent will pay lip service to technique but, in truth, they believe that the value and definition of writing lies in its profoundly intellectual, emotional or humorous nature. Examples of the latter extend from the bawdy doggerel we'd encounter in men's magazines to shaggy-dog tales with linebreaks. "Emotionally profound" can amount to the overwrought fare found in high school yearbooks or jingoistic anthems. Rounding out the triumvirate are the artless word puzzles and philosophy lectures with linebreaks found in literary magazines. In short, we have the silly, the sentimental and the pseudointellectual.

    Archetypes: Billy Collins, Maya Angelou & Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  • The Technique Freak

    If you know that "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks is a bacchic monometer curgina you may be a form-over-content Technique Freak. This is a rare but, strangely, unprotected species. The natural habitat of these odd birds is the online workshop, where discussing subject matter is considered inappropriate. Their mating call scans into accentual, accentual-syllabic and quantitative meter. Content Regents form their diet.

    Archetypes: Algernon Swinburne & Ezra Pound.

  • The GoStWeTo

    "...it's like that first guitar I played:
    at the center is a hole,
    at the center is a longing."

    - from "A Girl on the Road" by Ferron

    In the center stand those who look for a Good Story Well Told. Just as nearly everyone rates themself an above average driver, most poetry fans claim inclusion in this group. In fact, GoStWeTos are so rare as to be called "G[h]osts". This becomes evident when we read criticism. The Content Regent's reviews read like blurbs or annotation. The Technique Freak concentrates on whether or not the writing is poetry, good or bad. Only the GoStWeTo addresses whether or not it is poetry worth reading. The notion that some excellent verse will be of no interest to anyone [other than technicians] is lost on the TechFreak.

    "Ginger Caputo
    And Dorian Gray
    Oughtta stay out of pictures
    If they got nothin' to say"

    - from "Forbidden Jimmy" by John Prine

    Archetypes: Shakespeare & T.S. Eliot.

As poets or as bird-dogs, then, the Content Regent can't produce good poetry while the TechFreak can't produce interesting poetry.

Let us redivide the poetry pie along other, more basic biases: good versus bad and commercial versus aesthetic. Were we talking about the best contempory versers we could be comparing the ever-popular Leonard Cohen with the esteemed academic Seamus Heaney. In a recent Guardian article entitled
"What's wrong with popularising poetry? Well, the poets don't seem to like it . . ." we saw two promoters of bad poetry squaring off.

Garrison Keillor and August Kleinzahler

Leaving aside the fact that they look like two psych patients on bath night, we see an Edgar Guest being attacked by a typical Content King. The distinction between them is less than meets the eye: someone with poor taste versus someone with no taste.

What galls Content Regents is the fact that bad poetry trumps non-poetry.

Want to be Earl Gray for a Day? Email your tongue-in-cheek rant to earlthesquirrelpoetry@gmail.com . Feel free to use simple HTML tags as necessary.

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