Archive | November, 2010

A Strange and Beautiful Noise: Ernest Hilbert on Late Ashbery Syndrome, or, Listening without Hearing

Invariably described by critics as “difficult,” Ashbery (perhaps disingenuously) considers himself a simple and direct author of poems that deliberately switch tone, speaker, mood, tense, voice, and idiom seemingly at random. He cobbles together an aural surface that imitates the ADD noise of our channel-hopping daily lives, our bombardment by contradictory opinions, unconnected images, and raw data on a scale impossible to assimilate. He acknowledges in an interview with Daniel Kane for What is Poetry: Conversations with the American Avant-Garde that he “frequently incorporate[s] overheard speech,” and, as for the role randomness and chance might play in his poems, he concedes “I am a believer in fortuitous accidents.” These are trappings commonly associated with the urbane postmodern aesthetic. Put another way, postmodernism of the kind that Ashbery offers is frequently a nihilistic type of modernism. At times, he seems to enjoy confusion and instability, even as poetic process: “It’s a question of a sudden feeling of unsureness at what I am doing, wondering why I am writing the way I am, and also not feeling the urge to write in another way.” This does not arise from a provocative or incendiary instinct, as he explains in the Paris Review, but rather the belief that one must keep moving or be in danger of ossification.

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The Dark Pool

Robert Benchley, the actor, critic and member of the Algonquin Wits, once quipped that “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.”  At the risk of murdering to dissect and conferring ontological status upon a distinction that is […]

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Poetry and the Problem of Standards

“Building my work, I build myself.” –  Paul Valéry “Thought tends to collect in pools.” – Wallace Stevens Ordinary readers, literary editors, and some English professors confront an inescapable question of judgment: In principle, is it possible, faced with an overwhelming body of work in print, to cull out excellent poems in the way one […]

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The Rest Is Criticism

Time was when there was too much criticism around. Randall Jarrell thought so, when, in the early Fifties, he pronounced it “the bane of our age.” Auden, whose fourth doorstop volume of collected prose recently appeared from Princeton, was similarly disenchanted. In The Dyer’s Hand, Auden announced that, when his daydream College for Bards convened, […]

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Special Issue Introduction: Poetry Criticism

The six papers which will appear this week in the CPR were all delivered on July 31, 2010, at the first annual Western State College Seminar on Poetry Criticism, in Gunnison, Colorado.  The impulse behind the seminar, which we plan to hold each year, was a growing sense that critical writing – by which we […]

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The Good, The Fad, and The Ugly

If you were paying attention this summer, you know that for most of the world, football is a game in which players kick the ball strategically around a large grassy area and ultimately into a goal at one end of the field.

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The Lighter Side: Fashionista Flarf Blogger

The fashion world is enjoying the anonymous posts coming from Fuck Yeak Menswear, where each daily post “responds” to a fashion photograph with hilarious, egotistical doggerel that reminds this reader of nothing so much as a clothes-obsessed rap star working on the lyrics to B-sides that will never see the light of day. The blog […]

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A Formal Party

There are a number of striking similarities between these books: for starters, there’s the preference both poets display for traditional meters and forms, as well as the variety of those forms—sestinas, sonnets (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, terza rima and otherwise ) blank verse, rondeaux, villanelles.

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Editor’s Note: My Farewell

One of several enticements of the internet for a literary magazine, as for any enterprise, is the ease with which information may be conveyed, stored, and distributed. The era that saw pallets of magazines amassed in warehouses—or, in the case of one magazine I edited, in the copy room at the law office of its […]

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