Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Self-parody is everywhere this week.


The worst collection of poetry I have ever read can be found here. Complete with this justification for its existence by Simon Armitage. I’ve met Simon Armitage, even read with the man, so I can confirm that they do let him out of the house. I cannot imagine what might excuse this laughably bad gathering of imitation verse. There does seem to be an unwritten rule that one must be a clone of some previous form of conservative British poetry, only worse. Much worse.


Closer to home, William Logan’s “review” (the quotation marks are deliberate) of George Oppen’s Selected Poems should be read, just for its sheer nastiness:


In the late Fifties, Oppen began writing again, in the starved, cruelly compressed style abandoned decades before. This resurrection of a poet so long out of touch, and even out of date, proved irresistible to young writers influenced by William Carlos Williams. The minor figure of the Thirties became a minor figure of the Sixties. . . .  Oppen’s spareness was like that of a Zen master with a migraine . . . .


In all fairness, Logan dislikes almost everything & has little good news for the School of Quietude either. Logan wants to like Franz Wright’s “crude, unprocessed sewage of suffering,” but can’t quite bring himself to do it. Tony Hoagland is dismissed as a Frank O’Hara clone. Charles Wright’s poems are bundles of lines “loose as kindling.” The only poets here Logan can find anything positive to say about are Philip Larkin & Larkin’s “model,” A.E. Housman. Logan may be a caricature of a conservative critic but, perhaps because of this, he does an excellent job of demonstrating just why it makes sense to call such a poetics reactionary. At least, unlike Armitage, Logan wants the real thing, not a copy.