Saturday, September 04, 2004



Okay, I am seriously thinking I should scoot over to blogspot soon and set up something a bit more comment friendly, cuz I have been getting some response via e-mail to these. Don't get me wrong, I can see the potential of DA, just thinking maybe a different format, in which one does not have to become a member to comment on journal entries, might be better for what I'm doing. That said, at least this format has me thinking along these lines.

Gotta whole lotta work on slate, so this is short. So far, most of the comments I've heard on the Salemi article are pretty much along the lines of my own--that is, there are valid points tucked away in there, but the guy is a bit stiff, and everyone's having a bit of a difficult time understanding what the crisis is. Fave quote I've read so far comes from a poet named Tracy (from a different forum) who cites her 'young, hip friend' who generally responds to alarmist rhetoric with 'What's the damage, dude?' More elegant than my rant, in any case.

There's also Randall, who e-mailed me with the following comments, here replicated in their entirety, cuz they pretty much state the case as it is:

'I find it more than a bit ironic that someone bemoaning the “almost totally ahistorical mindset of young people” should fail to recognize that, historically speaking, nearly every critic who has ever pronounced the “death” of a given art form eventually ends up the subject of profound mockery when their “death throes” turn out to be, in hindsight, the birth pangs of renaissance.

Which is not to say that Salemi is entirely wrong in his criticisms of the state of the art – I agree with many of his complaints.

What I don’t find, however – and again, this speaks to Salemi’s own ahistorical perspective – is that our times are particularly unique in this regard. His arguments, in fact, are actually pretty clichéd, and can be found echoed in the critical writings of many others throughout the ages. And yet the arts somehow stumble along.

And while a plethora of bad and mediocre poetry is certainly a burden for
editors and publishers, I think Salemi’s two complaints may contradict each
other. To wit: he chides “the increasing inarticulateness of the general
population,” “the continuing debasement of our language,” and “above
all the vulgar commercialism and materialism of our culture, now so utterly
pervasive that they define modern life.” Then he complains about the glut of wannabe poets.

I should think that a serious interest in the art of communication would
actually be the preferred antidote to “the increasing inarticulateness of
the general population,” “the continuing debasement of our language,”
and “above all the vulgar commercialism and materialism of our culture, now
so utterly pervasive that they define modern life.”

As for the pervasiveness of the “confessional lyric” and “Portentous Hush”
in modern poetry, I would agree that they are both egregious in the extreme,
but I can’t say that I see in either a recipe for disaster. Instead, I find
merely the usual igneous transformations by which each generation eventually
becomes professional enough to trap their own genius under glass.

And then round about the time the inevitable self-important critic announces
that the oxygen has all but run out in the exhibit, along comes the next
generation to smash in all the cases and set our minds free, again – for a

--See why I'm thinking forum with easier commenting function?

Randall also brings up a crit of my crit (and I'll in turn crit his crit of my crit...this is the REAL problem with the humanities...but ne'mind), by asking the very relevant question: "Are riot grrls really suckers for Italian love songs?"

Umm...good point. I guess I was just trying to keep Salemi in character. I'm just having a hard time imagining him doing a Iggy Pop inspired rendition of 'China Girl.' (Perhaps Cake's 'Never There' might be even better...but I don't see him going for that, either.)

He's consistently a lurrrrvely poet, BTW.

Anyway, for all that, I should probably at some point post something re: a poetic 'movement' (doncha just love it) that I consider to be somewhat outdated and more than a little mistaken for much the same reason I'd call Salemi mistaken, a movement that goes under the title of The New Formalism. One seminal essay, dating back to 1991, is Dana Gioia's 'Can Poetry Matter,'--I could probably stand to hit this essay as well, but today don't have the time--suffice it to say, it'd be a taller order than Salemi's screed, tougher target all around, because it states the case with a bit more of both force and finesse. It is also a bit less clearly aligned with any particular political viewpoint--though Gioia and, in fact, the movement as a whole is, as a rule, associated with conservatism in the American sense of that word, Gioia is a bit more able to sway the more moderate among his readers.

Okay, so...heads up, not anytime real soon, but I am still considering that move to a blog site that is a bit more comment friendly, though I may wait a month or two because of personal busyness, and the fact that namaste was kind enough to pop for a 3 month subscription here...pity, really, that there isn't a feature on this site that would allow me to let anyone comment, and not just DA members. But...I suspect that's largely because the site is not particularly designed with a journal-only membership in mind.

Gonna go to work now. Viel spass until then--tchitch

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