Thursday, February 01, 2007

Poetry... flowers...

One of my favorite bloggers, Mimi Smartypants, recently wrote with great panache about a some poets I'd never heard of. She said, "Both of these guys can, at their best, write perfect, amazing lines that crash around in my head like a moose on Ecstasy – that furry, that large, that happy and antlered." I was an English major so read a bunch of poetry in high school and college, though nothing more modern than William Carlos Williams and Philip Larkin, I forget. Unfortunately the professor who taught modern poetry had early Alzheimer's and assigned us to read John Crowe Ransom's "Piazza Piece" about six times in a row. perhaps as a result, I like Shakespearean sonnets, Romantic and Victorian poetry but not much beyond that, preferring (to my chagrin) the Dead White Men school when it comes to poetry. BUT... I'm always hoping to expand my horizons, so when Mimi mentioned these two guys, I immediately checked them out.

The first guy, August Kleinzahler, gave an interview to Poets and Writers magazine (motto: "From Inspiration to Publication"). Although I never found any of his actual poems, this piece set my bullshit alarm to clanging. This is why I have a prejudice again modern poets:
AK: Most people who persist with it [poetry writing] and have the gift have something wrong with them. They don't have to be suicidal and drunkards and that cliché, but there's usually some sort of extreme psychological situation that pressures language into original poetry. It's not a pretty thing. It's not a nice thing. It's a very destructive thing.

P&W: The forces that compel you to write?

AK: The forces. The writing's fun, it's a release. If you can bring it off it's like particularly wonderful sex. But it's not a thing that can thrive in an institutional context. Only in America would someone come up with that.

P&W: I take it then, that you're not a regimented, get up at the crack of dawn and write every day type of guy?

AK: Not for poetry. But if I'm involved in a poem, everything else comes to a stop. It's like a trance. It's very exhausting.

P&W: But thrilling.


AK: Oh, absolutely. Prose writers can only imagine.
Yes, I can only imagine. O for the exhausting trancelike state resembling particularly wonderful sex that I once got from the destructive forces that compelled me to write about Planning and Zoning meetings, Eagle Scouts, school budgets... those were the days...

The second guy, Aaron Anstett, seemed slightly less nauseating but by then my tenuous open-mindedness was shot to hell, so I had to close that tab and go back to more enriching pursuits like reading about Joe Biden's pathetic aspirations to the presidency when the guy embarrasses himself every time he opens his mouth, which is quite frequently. Or pondering the late Molly Ivins and her incisive turns of phrase, like when she said of Pat Buchanan (who declared that the U.S was engaged in a cultural war) that his speech "probably sounded better in the original German." Here's her last column. You go, girl.

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