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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Blurbosphere

    "...and other forms of boredom advertised as poetry."

    Contrary to popular belief, the blurbosphere is not a pejorative term for the blogosphere.  Don't get me wrong;  it is pejorative but no more so than calling an earlier generation "old-fashioned" or "slightly technophobic".  Also, it refers to the most visible aspects of careerism, including but in no way limited to the blogosphere.  It is usually a cynic's view of untenured, publish-or-perish academia and the attendant print world.  When I use the term it describes any professional community or mindset where poetry is not judged but showcased, typically on the basis of the writer rather than the written.  In short, it is a place where actual criticism is pointless, if not verboten.

    Normally, I would just "let the circus keep the tent", as the quaint saying goes.  Recently, though, a Facebook friend of mine asked for interpretations of a poem for a critical article she was writing.  This person is someone I like and admire, more so than the expression "Facebook friend" may suggest.  Nevertheless, she is from the blurbosphere, where "criticism" translates to "interpretation", not [technical] "evaluation".  In that topsy-turvy world "criticism" means its opposite:  "praise".  The fact that one bothers to write an interpretation of a poem is, itself, flattering. It's a cozy, compartmentalised world.  Works by poets unknown to both critic and reader are rarely reviewed.  What would be the point?  (Bear this factoid in mind.  There will be a test later.)

    Unfortunately, the poem in question was completely devoid of artistic merit or coherence at any level.  It was authored by a retired professional but if I told you it was produced by a semiliterate teenager using a dictionary as a dartboard you'd have no cause for doubt.  Call me "old-fashioned" or "squirrelly", but I advocate the notion that bad writing doesn't make good poetry.  Feel free to check my arithmetic:

 Bad grammar + sloppy punctuation + Tamarian syntax + tedium ≠ poetry 

    If my friend were a fellow onliner I could be frank with her.  Both of us would have seen each other critiquing work honestly.  She would know to expect candor and that is what she'd get.  Were the poet--not my critic friend but the author of the underlying piece--to have posted this dreck to a serious critical forum he could expect a response similar to this oft-quoted Usenet classic:

    "Please give me one reason why the aforesaid could be
classified as anything other than badly written, unimaginative
and cliché-festooned. This poem, for lack of a more appropriate
term, seems to represent, to me, everything poetry is not about,
that is: vague references to vaguely traumatic personal events
renumerated listlessly as a piece of abstract journalistic
schlock (with random line breaks to disguise it as poetry)
superimposed on a bland moral-aesthetic grid. Superficial in
every way, and lacking any sort [of] effect."

        - Aidan Tynan (2002-07-17, a.a.p.c., re:  "Facade") 

    How do you deal with this in the blurbosphere, though, where real critique is viewed as catty, if not vicious?  For all we know, someone's job could be at stake.  Remember:  the blurbic language has no word for "shit".  So how do you tell your academic friend that the poem she is about to praise/interpret is, in fact,  unprocessed sewage?

    The answer has to lie in why your friend is suffering from such an acute case of amaurosis poetica.    (I told you there would be a test later.)  There is only one possible explanation.

     Ask your buddy this:  "Do you know this poet personally?" 

    That should get the ball rolling. 

    If not, give up;  it's a lost cause.

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