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

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kudos Again to Contemporary Poetry Review

If you have not already done so, please take a moment to read "Short Cuts: Roy Nicosia on a Post-Dementia Poet" on Contemporary Poetry Review. We see the critic make a number of excellent points.

  • "Forty years ago, Randall Jarrell sadly proclaimed that the gods who had taken away the poet’s readers had replaced them with students. These days, the students have disappeared as well, and been replaced by prizes."

  • "Some might call this exciting or interesting, the pure play of language, but once you’ve watched every poem in the book metastasize after a few lines into an absurdist doodle, it’s no more interesting than wading though your computer’s spam filter."

  • "Beyond here, the reader cannot go: parody becomes impossible in the midst of such self-parody."

  • "The problem with banality is that it’s merely the pleasant face of hardened indifference. To have an audience, you must care about a reader: that statistical non-entity who must purchase your book, read your poems, and be moved enough to remember or even memorize a line or two. So much contemporary poetry seems written for the void, for no one at all— like spam email, it is merely sent out by publishers conditioned to shrug at the public’s indifference."

That's almost the whole article! Brilliant!

Mr. Nicosia cites Ms. Hughey's “What Bird” to make a point:

Bulbs, gravel, driveway.

I had hyacinth on my mouth.

The city, without thinking,

will arrive with photographs.

Or it could, even in winter,

Tap at the glass, at the birdbath,

to be asked to speak.

When I first read this piece I said to myself: "That ain't poetry, it's homework."

Roy Nicosia goes on to argue that this effort is typical not only of Ms. Hughey’s work but of contemporary print world poetry in general. The poem is an assignment and we're supposed to go home and decipher it.

It would seem, then, that Roy and I are in agreement on this point. We are, but my initial reaction was that it was a finished homework assignment. That day's class had to have been on the subject of assonance and Elizabeth Hughey returned with an effort which illustrates that technique and nothing else: not rhythm, not finely wrought metaphors (as Roy points out), not even other aspects of sound (e.g. consonance, alliteration, etc.).

I'd have given it an "A+".

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