|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #71|
Why, you go out and acquire them, of course!
|Armin Shimerman plays "Quark"|
If poetry is about poems you seek out specific recommendations from consumers: critics, bird dogs and readers. This approach gives us eclectic sources like The Hypertexts. Editors might be surprised to hear how many interesting poems people have encountered in workshops, open mics or elsewhere. How can it hurt to ask your readership for tips? To paraphrase Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #111: "Treat subscribers like family. Exploit them."
I enjoyed Michael's article. However, it seems that Mr. Robbins and I have very different definitions of competence. For example, regarding "Apple Slices" he writes:
"Now, this is crushingly banal (and, at the end, questionably grammatical). It's not just that this scene of adolescent wholesomeness is textbook workshop pablum, but that it has been platitudinized. It's trite and conservative.
"But it's eminently competent."
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11|
Then there is this:
"The merely competent should study Mlinko's work with envy."
I appreciate the bold statement. In my time I may have made a few, myself. The problem is that this sample illustrates what Michael is bemoaning, not what he is championing:
You never hear of Ixion, tied to a revolving wheel,
but it's an axiom that, sooner or later, a hurricane'll hit here.
Before we pursue that, though, we must make the same detour Mr. Robbins did in considering Mark Edmundson's "Poetry Slam" article in Harper's Magazine:
Mark Edmundson: "Contemporary American poetry speaks its own confined language, not ours. It is, by and large, pure. It does not generally traffic in the icons of pop culture; it doesn't immerse itself in ad-speak, rock lyrics, or politicians' posturing: it gravitates to the obscure, the recondite, the precious, the ancient, trying to get outside the mash of culture that surrounds it."
Michael Robbins: "This is just not true..."
"Not true?" The Ange Mlinko excerpt was not obscure? Not recondite? Exactly how many anglophones do we think will know who Ixion was? Greek mythology isn't ancient and "outside the mash of culture" here in North America? What could be more precious than speaking of Ixion using quaint contractions, the last of which breaks voice and rhythm?
In an era when few MFAs grads know whether "Prufrock" is verse or free verse competence is a far greater and rarer accomplishment than some seem to think.
¹ - "New Yorker" poems = throwaway poems by celebrated poets.
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