Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Poetry Pundits Speak: The State of Poetry Book Reviews


What’s the value of poetry book reviews, to readers or writers or reviewers? And what’s the current condition of poetry book reviews? Good? Bad? Helpful? A joke? Same as it ever was? Worse than ever before? Who cares?

The first issue of Mayday Magazine has a roundtable on the issue of the poetry review, organized and headlined by the inimitable Kent Johnson and featuring a cast of poetry pundits and talking heads, myself included. No plans for our own Sunday morning television show just yet though.

Leaving aside the transparent ironies and decidedly small-c chuckles to be found in the idea of reviewing the reviewers (although “critiquing the reviewers” is perhaps more accurate), with luck the discussion will highlight concerns about the current state of discussion about poetry that are worth considering.

For the moment I’ve said what I have to on the subject in my response to the open letter with which Kent begins the discussion, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Why do you read poetry reviews, if you do, and what do you want out of them? And do you like what you're currently getting out of them?

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for linking. It is a thoughtful and diverse mix, I think.

There were some discussions about Flarf on Thinking Again sometime back. Just for the record, I DID try to get representatives of that tendency to contribute, but with no luck. It would have been interesting to hear what they had to say, inasmuch as reviewing within that group tends to evidence, I believe, some of the mutual back-scratching problems I mention in my piece.

best,

Kent

rodney k said...

Hi Mark,

Appreciated your thoughts about reviewing in MAYDAY. Esp. struck by your question about whether poetry from other eras was any better for having had anonymous reviewers. Poetry suffers more than many arts, I think, from the “golden age” disease, imagining a time when poetry was supposedly more popular, vital, “in touch,” etc. I wonder if the call for more “negative” reviews is really a golden age-type wish for more readers. And I’m sort of dubious about the idea that reviews, negative or otherwise, will reel ‘em in.

Reviews are like fishwrap—important for the task at hand, but kind of disposable once the product’s reached the kitchen. Which is maybe why reviews from other eras are almost never cited except to show how wrong contemporaries were about the poet at hand. We chuckle when we read contemporary reviews of Keats, or Stein, or Stevens: or, less often, we’re surprised at how much they seemed to get right, by our lights. But we never seem to go to them for information about the poetry and why we should still be reading it.

My hunch is that the role poetry serves in our culture right now plays out essentially in the universities. Whatever gets your books studied there is what counts; for getting read, reviews are adjunct I think to curriculum decisions. I’d rather have a course adoption or two than a wave of blog chatter, or an anonymous review. One can influence the other, but I wouldn’t want to confuse the cart with the horse. Maybe the number of reviews a book gets is more important than anything they say, because it generates the attention makers of syllabi need to make their decisions. I don't know, maybe that puts too much on the university's shoulders. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

A fascinating, somewhat poignant comment by Rodney K., there: that a driving ambition for a self-identified "avant" formation, still earnestly professing a poetics of iconoclasm and impropriety, has become...

To get on college syllabi!

Onward, Culture soldiers,

Kent

Anonymous said...

Kent, in your little latta smith circle it's not really back-scratching so much as sperm guzzling. Sorry but you do only seem to hang out (and mutually cock suck) men.

--meg

mark wallace said...

Just to let everyone know, I've rejected one comment that was only an insult and was offered anonymously.

Say whatever you like, people, but it remains the policy of this blog not to publish anonymous comments, especially when they have no content other than insult.


And anyone who would like to return to a discussion of reviews is especially encouraged to comment.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, and really I suppose for the sake of "setting the record straight," which Flarf poets did you ask to participate in the Roundtable, Kent?

Meg seems a little out of control, but I do agree with her about the irony of your attacking others for back-scratching and posse-heading.

I like Rodney's response, by the way. To the point, no hemming and hawing, no BS handwringing, like some many of the responses in that Roundtable (not yours, Mark).

I can't personally recall a single instance of buying a book of poetry based on a review (or not buying something negatively reviewed that I'd had my eye on). Ever.

Reviewing books of poetry may not just be a thankless art, but a pointless one.

Michael

Anonymous said...

i am a major, MAJOR east coast writer and poet and reviewer and BLUBBER, i mean BLURBIST absurdist, i'm on ALL the saliva i mean green power SYLLABUSSES so i am qualified to say that reviews and blurbs SUCK. i suck. meg especially seems to know what sucks, i wonder how? kent, you suck. rodney, do you REALLY mean that stuff? and to think, you and i ate a burger once together in the snow. they said it was YOU. i said, "rodney, baby, gimme a kiss. you CHANGED, man, you CHANGED!" the cart with the horse? you know who still carts around crap in horsecarts -- poles. poles do. up yonder in pole land. oh, their economy is SWELL these days. the market for poles is HOT. arsonists that they were, and maybe still ARE. otherwise, the one observation i wish to make is -- the poetry terroristas have won. we are all lashing out at each other. quelle HORREUR, mssrs & mmes. ---------------------BA

Anonymous said...

"meg":

I think that might be the most masculine, testosteroned poetry-blog comment I've ever seen!

To return to the topic, here is a paragraph from my piece at Mayday. What do you (or others) think?

"Now, to take up an issue that seems to bemuse Guriel, I do think there's a fundamental reason why timidity and obsequiousness tend to dominate poetry criticism these days, and it's a pretty uncomplicated one: Reviewing tends to be done by poets, and poets use the mode of criticism, more often than not, as a form of ingratiation with their associates. As U.S. poetry (mainstream and post-avant) has become more tightly tethered to academic careerism, sycophantic tendencies have naturally become more ubiquitous, and one outcome of the trend is that the "review" and the "blurb" have begun to blur in purpose and effect. (Question: If one were to conduct an exhaustive study of all poetry reviews published by poets under 50since the start of the new millennium, what percentage would be heavily laded with exuberant praise? Answer: The study’s never been done, but bottom dollar that it’s over 96%.)"

Kent

Anonymous said...

"What do you (or others) think?"

Honestly? Whatever the motivation, it's at least worth pointing out that fawning sycophancy (to say nothing of self-righteous attacking of others) is the order of the day among the circle Kent Johnson has surrounded himself with.

Other than that, not much to really chew on here.

James

Jordan said...

Hi Rodney - I like your take, but I have to say, I like reading reviews, or certain reviewers, anyway. The critical line on Eliot's prose is that his best work was in the early reviewing; we'll finally get to see whether this is true when Johns Hopkins brings out the collected criticism in several volumes in the next few years.

Kent, you're in our prayers, as ever.

Dale said...

James, could you be more specific about "self righteous attacking of others" etc. Not sure where that's going.

*

Generosity is number uno when it comes to reviews. And discovering something that maybe you didn't already know in the process of writing....

Anonymous said...

>Kent, you're in our prayers, as ever.

That's sweet of you, Jordan. Thanks.

I do picture you in those jumpsuit PJs, with rubber-soled booties. Sleep tight.

:~)

Kent

Anonymous said...

Reviews, especially of poetry books, need space, which most magazines offline don't seem to have much of.

The reviews in The Nation have been great. But the editors there provide an opportunity for the reviewer to stretch out and really cover the subject.

Short hits are okay, but who are they serving? Seems like the issue isn't a need to "go negative" but to actually provide space for a response with actual substance.

It's a bit depressing to read these calls for negativity, as though short negative reviews would somehow be more substantive than short positive ones.

Don't we have any ambition for real dialog? How would a bunch of 500 word negative reviews even begin to address anything?

David

Anonymous said...

Generosity is definitely key, tho I wd say that more imp. than the reviewer discovering something s/he didn't know prior (whch seems to be what Dale is saying) it wd be far more valuable to get things the reader might not already know across.

Kent who were the flarfers who declined to play? Looks like Koeneke was up for it. His response seems honest, no?

A serious Q: what author -- poet or proser, avant or mainstreamy -- wdn't want their work read? Seems silly to expect avants to pooh-pooh potential readership, even if that be undergrads.

& why put off undergrads w/the boring usual blandiferousness when there *are* books like RK's, whch might actually inspire the young?

Are you advocating nothing but Mary Olivers for classroom use?

Onward Culture Soldier, indeed!

Colin

Jordan said...

Funny, Kent, I don't picture you at all. I mean, I'm told you exist, are not a heteronym, are an honest crusader against the abuses of the author function, would never commit logrolling or backscratching or any of the offenses you attribute to others.

Oh, hi Michael! Are you here too? And Dale. Where's John? Four is a better number than three, don't you think? It gives a comment box that unstoppably righteous gang feeling.

Now let's hear some more -- nothing too specific, of course! -- about what I've done, how I'm implicated, etc etc. It's all about the innuendo and ad hominem attacks. I feel bad in advance.

Anonymous said...

Bad Rodney for wanting your books to be read by other people!

Only anonymous negative criticism can save you now!

Matt

Anonymous said...

Jordan,

Who said you were implicated in anything? I only said, and good naturedly (because *you* said you were saying prayers for me at your bedside), that I pictured you in PJs.

Why so stern, suddenly? There is quite a bit of harsh and personal attack here, in this thread, and I don't believe any of it has come from me?

Kent

Anonymous said...

Kent wrote: "There is quite a bit of harsh and personal attack here, in this thread, and I don't believe any of it has come from me?"

There's a good laugh for ya. "Mr Go Negative Decries Negativity Directed At Self"

Colin

Anonymous said...

All of you here suck. Me included, I suck. Meg included, who sucks the most, by the way. He or she brought up sucking and so sucks, him/herself, the most. What has happened to your flipping humility, folks? Seriously. Your writing sucks. And your insults suck. YOUR INSULTS SOUND LIKE POETRY REVIEWS. Which suck. Get over yourselves. Get back to being (1) poets who write about your families but pretend you don't or (2) poets who think that a dumptruck full of words is a poem even though it isn't or (3) hipster glasses dude or (4) hipster glasses girl or (5) Dude or Chick who has REALLY suffered though you have no idea what suffering is. Jiminy Christmas. "It's cold out." That doesn't mean you've SUFFERED. Get over it. Read some poetry. Go for a jog. Watch the game on television. Think about offering a hand to someone who doesn't SUCK. Say yes, once in a while. Smell something other than CRAP once in a while. Find something RIGHT with the world. -------------BA

Jordan said...

Now Kent. I know it's not your fault that you can't stop thinking about poets' bedsides, but you're mischaracterizing what I said. As usual.

Bravo on shifting the conversation by characterizing me, by the way.

Stan Apps said...

I like reviewing poetry books. It's a good way to keep my hand in writing, when I'm uninspired or other types of writing seem too difficult for some reason.

I usually review books that people send me for free, usually the ones I like the most. I don't have much motivation for writing negative reviews because I don't get paid and no other sort of reward seems likely from that procedure. I like negative reviews, because I can be kind of a mean person, but I just don't have enough motivation to get around to it.

If you'd send me some books Kent I would happily write a negative review of the one I liked least--that would be fun! But you see the logistical problem. Why would you be motivated to send me the book? People who send me free books generally probably think I'll like them, and if I don't, silence seems usually like the most polite response.

I have lost friends as a result of writing positive reviews, amazingly enough. Even mild criticism or qualifications in the course of a generally positive review is enough to alienate some people. Of course, it's better not to have such vain friends, so it's okay. . . Other people I've reviewed have happily been able to accept that I'm not them and my account won't duplicate their opinion. . .

I guess I'm saying that if even writing positive reviews can make you enemies and help you find out who your real friends are, then the social effects of negative reviews might perhaps be too much for our (very) little poetry world. . .

I feel like I'm going to get anonymously attacked for what I just wrote, so let me just say pre-emptively that anyone who attacks me is toejam.

Anonymous said...

Kent Johnson is now crying about people attacking him?

Kent opens the comments field here with a couple of personal attacks, the worst being his self-aggrandizing and rather insipid retort to Rodney's generous comment to Mark.

If Kent seems bent on becoming an unending embarrassment to his circle, I fail to understand why he should expect people to consistently fail to point that out.

*shrugs*

James

Dale said...

Wow. Mark's blog has turned into a nasty little sand pit of projection. The robots have been activated. Remote controlled drones scan the surface. Will they hit their target? Stay tuned....

In the meantime, one thing I frequently remind my students to do is: if you make a claim, back it up with a plausible argument and / or evidence. Otherwise, no one will listen to you.

Later, gents. Someone let me know when the steroids wear off a bit over here...

Anonymous said...

Colin said:

>There's a good laugh for ya. "Mr Go Negative Decries Negativity Directed At Self"

Colin, you should read my piece. Nowhere do I propose that "negative reviews" be ad hominem in nature. I state that they shouldn't be.

But don't get me wrong. I love this!

Kent

Anonymous said...

OK, to interrupt the snark a bit.

Mark's post invites discussion around the issue of reviewing, so to take it up, again:

Matt Roger somewhat snidely said, alluding to my response to Rodney K.: "Bad Rodney for wanting your books to be read by other people! Only anonymous negative criticism can save you now!"

But this misses the point. Rodney had specifically proposed that a major index of "what counts" is the presence of book titles on university syllabi. This is an interesting proposal, inasmuch as it points to what increasing numbers of people (that's a fair and accurate assertion) are seeing as a curious contradiction in Flarf/Conceptual "self-presentation." On the one hand, the work claims to be radical, disruptive, impudent, resistant to assimilation; on the other hand, there is the ever-growing sense that-- evidenced in various "art-historical" lineage-narratives offered by group members (see Wikipedia), aggressively promoted shows in major Art Museum settings, special print supplements in top-shelf literary venues, preparation of ready-for-Textbook anthology, etc.-- there is (to start the clause over) the ever-growing sense that the Flarf and Conceptual poets earnestly seek to have their work accepted as Avant-Garde Literary expression at high institutional levels. It's a contradiction that has previously played itself out, if in different ways, with Language poetry, for example, and with certain problematic results (not that these have been fully figured out).

So Rodney's statement struck me as interesting in that sense, at least in the context of a discussion on reviewing and its functions. Because insofar as a desire for high-culture legitimation partially drives a purportedly iconoclastic activity, that desire will have implications for the collective's critical choices and behavior (this includes reviewing practices, obviously), as well as for its capacity for critical dialogue and self-criticism in face of critique directed its way (in this regard, the Flarf group's hyper-sensitivity to challenge and its venomous responses to same are legendary).

What Rodney seems to be suggesting, really, is that the function of reviews, positive and negative, is to get more titles on syllabi. That this is, again, "what counts."

But the "What Counts" you get depends on the "How One Is to Be Counted" you choose.

Discuss?

Kent

Michael Robbins said...

Jordan, do you think I would say what this other Michael says? And the threads wherein I disagree with Dale & John in far stronger terms than I've ever disagreed with you outnumber the ones wherein I join some imaginary gang. Don't put me in the posse, friend. Yr attacks are relentlessly personal & a bit disconcerting, really.

No, I'm not here: I am no longer anywhere these stupid fights take place. Let's all call one another sperm guzzlers some more.

Michael Robbins said...

By the way, just read, Jordan. The other Michael came to bury Kent, not praise him. It's a contact sport, everyone wants in on the fun. The meanspiritedness of you people defies comprehension, which is why I stay out of this bullshit now.

Anonymous said...

It's really bizarre to sit here and read Michael Robbins of all people complaining about "stupid fights."

But, one doesn't really see oneself as others do, I guess!

Michael

Anonymous said...

Actually, what's legendary, Kent, is your paranoia, self-aggrandizing hypocrisy, the fawning sychophancy of your followers, and the general irrelevance of your thought and poetry.

Tom

Anonymous said...

Michael Robbins wrote: "The meanspiritedness of you people defies comprehension, which is why I stay out of this bullshit now."

This is the funniest thing I've read all day.

Robbins being, of course, rather legendary for both his meanspiritedness and his everpresentness to dish out same.

James

Anonymous said...

Tom said:

>"Actually, what's legendary, Kent, is your paranoia, self-aggrandizing hypocrisy, the fawning sychophancy of your followers, and the general irrelevance of your thought and poetry."<


Ouch!

I mean, you gotta love it.

:~)

Kent

Michael Theune said...

Kent's "circle"?

Seems a strange way to label those who participated in the forum. While I figure that for such an undertaking, one does need to enlist some reviewers one knows, I'm pretty sure Kent invited a number of reviewers to participate who he did not know personally (Mark Halliday comes to mind).

And, anyway, to my reading, there's a lot of disagreement among the forum participants. Not everyone agrees with Kent's position, and almost no one agrees fully with Kent's proposal. In fact, I think I recall in my invitation to participate a request from Kent that the forum participants feel free to disagree strongly with him.

I'd be interested in discussing some of the positions staked out by some of the respondents. Or, in pushing the conversation started on the forum: if a satellite economy of apocryphal reviewing is called for, how do we get this economy jumpstarted. Or, I'd be interested in hearing more from the critical voices in this comment stream regarding how the forum's responses seem so homogenous so as to seem like back-scratching, or, um, well, you know...

Michael Theune said...

>>Reviews, especially of poetry books, need space, which most magazines offline don't seem to have much of.

The reviews in The Nation have been great. But the editors there provide an opportunity for the reviewer to stretch out and really cover the subject.

Short hits are okay, but who are they serving? Seems like the issue isn't a need to "go negative" but to actually provide space for a response with actual substance.<<

Couldn't agree more, David!! This is one of the main points I make in my own response on the forum...

I'd note, additionally, that if you're looking for in-depth reviewing, another good (print) journal is Pleiades.

mark wallace said...

Hello Michael Theune (and to all the other Michaels here, none of whom I know):

I don't think the reference to Kent's "circle" is meant as a reference to the review forum itself. In any case, like you, I feel that this conversation would be better served by a discussion of the various responses in the Mayday issue, as some blog responses here have done, but also, like some of the other comments here, by expressing other points of view on the question of reviewing. Part of the point of my blog post was to encourage other people not included in the forum to speak up regarding their perspectives on reviews, and some of the comments here have done that--thanks to those of you who have.

And thanks to the rest of you as well--all comments are welcome here as long as they're signed, and as long as no one voice tries to take over entirely.

So much for my blog public service announcement. As you were, everybody.

Anonymous said...

Michael Theune,

Kent's circle wasn't a reference to the roundtable.

As for comments about the roundtable, basically, it bored the holy crap out of me, although I thought Mark Wallace pretty much nailed things.

James

Anonymous said...

Kent, who were the flarfers you asked who didn't respond?

I know I asked this before, but it looks sort of bad that you can't supply an answer to this, and I'd like to give you an opportunity to prove that you're not just an out and out liar.

Colin

Michael Theune said...

Mark,

I, too, am very interested to hear other perspectives, of course!

James,

Thanks for the clarification.

You are of course under no obligation to respond to this inquiry, but I wonder: what bored you about the forum, and, more importantly, what could have made the forum more interesting? Or: if Mark nailed it, isn't that really rewarding reading? Even if you've got to slog through a number of other responses, to find something that really gets at/gets into something seems worth it to me (it certainly seems to echo my own experience of reading poetry: lots that doesn't grab me, but something here and there that does...).

Michael Robbins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Colin,

I asked Kasey Mohammad and Jordan Davis and Ben Friedlander. I also asked Steve Evans and Jennifer Moxley (I know they aren't "flarfers," as you put it, but there are some "community affinities" there, I suppose.

OK?

Kent

Anonymous said...

Some discussion on nature of this comments string over at Harriet blog...

thanks to Rodney Koenecke and Stan Apps for thoughtful comments, though.

Kent

Anonymous said...

Kent your thanking Rodney after your embarrassing diparagement of him is fucking pathological. Michael, if you don't get it now, you never will.

James

Art Durkee said...

I enjoy writing reviews. It's good to keep one's critical hand in. It's practice. I occasionally write what I call appreciations, too, which are not so much reviews as personal musings on what a particular writer or artist has meant to me, or done for me, or inspired me to do.

I don't think a good review has to be by definition either negative OR positive. I think by definition a good review has to be an honest assessment: pointing out what works, and pointing out what doesn't work.

I disagree with the idea some seem to believe, that reviewing is a purely subjective art, or that disagreement is inherently toxic. I think disagreement can be a road to improving the writing—and reviewing should always be about the writing.

I DO think that ad hominem attacks always say more about the mental state of the attacker than they do about the target, be the target a book or a person. I think most people have no idea quite how MUCH they reveal about themselves when they resort to snark rather than reason.

I do reviews periodically, just to keep my hand in. If I have nothing new at hand to review, I might review a long-published book, seen with fresh eyes, now.

Again, honest assessment is what I think about. Even books that I thoroughly love and recommend to others, I am willing to point out their flaws. But not only their flaws, their virtues as well.

This isn't a middle-of-the-road "fair and balanced" position which requires one to always say something nice if you're going to say anything at all. If a book is just bad, I feel free to say so. (I've panned pop music CDs for the reason that, even though the band was young, their music was so clearly derivative that one cannot get their influences out of one's mind.) If a book is mostly bad, or mostly good, or mostly dead, I feel free to say so. Likewise, if I write what amounts to a rave review, I don't hesitate to say what might still have been done better.

And having been a book designer, typographer, and so forth, I feel free to comment on a book's design and presentation. I've noted most reviewers don't do that: rather, they seem to act as if such details were not worth mentioning, although in fact they DO affect one's experience in reading, and therefore one's response.

The truth is, it IS more fun to write a rave review which expresses one's enthusiasm for what one likes. But it can be as dishonest to do so as is a hatchet job, if one doesn't also step back and look at the book under review with a relatively cool eye, too.

jschickling said...

“Sycophancy.” Well, it seems a culture of fearlessly critical reviews, and a similar kind of poetry for that matter, might avoid all that. If you have it in your head to sabotage your career, you’re beginning on the right track.

“Don’t we have any ambition for real dialog? How would a bunch of 500 word negative reviews begin to address anything?” They could. And even better when it’s longer—which seems to be what the author of this quote is suggesting, see below.

Analysis. Deciding on this, proffering that, such could be the outcome of honest critiques and reviews. One has problems with a mystical torture policy; one has problems with an institution of Jorie Graham; with Colorado Prizes; with the whole contest model; with the capitalization of Poetry; with validations and pleasant tea under embossed slips of paper, very beautifully designed and framed; with erect pinky fingers; with the lethal potencies of institutional publishing machineries producing texts highly palatable to people who have everything to lose. With bitchers and bitches who want only to take part. One has problems with shams and sham tongues.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to this discussion, sorry. Kent's vicious attack of Rodney Koeneke (whose name Kent can't be bothered to spell correctly) is, alas, fairly typical. Rodney is one of the sweetest most generous poets out there, and it's painful to watch Kent's totally uncalled for, vicious attack on him ... though par for Kent's course, which is to attack anyone
who doesn't haul his water for him.

Also sad to see Robbins caught in the middle, though he has of course a well-earned reputation for attacking anything that moves online.

Kent's notion of negative reviews totally ignores the real problem, already diagnosed here: reviews are not given space enough to be in depth, and therefor of any real value to a "general reader."

Kent likes and supports negative reviews because he is a negative person, who has made a lot of enemies in the poetry world and so wants the license to attack. Which he does anyway (as evidenced by his attack on Rodney Koeneke, whose work is so far out of Kent's league that it's laughable. Koeneke has readers, lots of them, who are enthusiastic. Kent has apologists.

Michael Robbins has obviously not read Koeneke's work. Koeneke is not a real person to him , nor a real poet, which is the only reason why he might apologize for Kent's shitty dismissal.

Janet

Michael Robbins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jschickling said...

“Sycophancy.” Well, it seems a culture of fearlessly critical reviews, and a similar kind of poetry for that matter, might avoid all that. If you have it in your head to sabotage your career, you’re beginning on the right track.

“Don’t we have any ambition for real dialog? How would a bunch of 500 word negative reviews begin to address anything?” They could. And even better when it’s longer—which seems to be what the author of this quote is suggesting, see previously.

Analysis. Deciding on this, proffering that, such could be the outcome of honest critiques and reviews. One has problems with a mystical torture policy; one has problems with an institution of Jorie Graham; with Colorado Prizes; with the whole contest model; with the capitalization of Poetry; with validations and pleasant tea under embossed slips of paper, very beautifully designed and framed; with erect pinky fingers; with the lethal potencies of institutional publishing machineries producing texts highly palatable to people who have everything to lose. With bitchers and bitches who want only to take part. One has problems with shams and sham tongues.

Jared S.

mark wallace said...

Morning, everyone. Just waking up here in southern California.

Michael Robbins, you should be able to delete yourself any post that you put up, I believe, if you signed into blogger. If not: these posts sometimes come up/go up in a less than perfect order, so if you'll identify a bit more exactly which post you mean, I'll be glad to take it down for you.

northbrooklynrunners said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

sham tongues? sham WOW. "bitches" -- now that's original. poets trying to sound tough. "trying to sound" = SUCKS. "trying to sound" = eating off the FAT of the lamb. ramen noodle does not equal hardship. ramen noodle does not equal saying yes, BITCHES. does ramen noodle have bitch flavor? you ALL have less originality than a snack noodle because you all SUCK. there are better poems on the subway, on the seat NEXT to you. if ONLY you were a SECURITY GUARD. if ONLY you were a SPARRING PARTNER. instead you are SMARMY and you are DOOMED. the DOOMED poetry dude the DOOMED poetry chick. in your VINTAGE jeans in your VINTAGE wrap in your VINTAGE butt cheese. you think that you are the ONLY ONE where you crouch, there, in the blackness, weeping for us all, but trust me, BITCHES, there will be someone there to SLAP YOU. -------- BA

Henry Gould said...

Mark, suggest you moderate spam & flames on your blog, if you want dialogue here.

northbrooklynrunners said...

I keep thinking of Tom Orange's stunning point - (my paraphrasing it) *how all this might all be the late night shivering of a collapsing national poetry*

Floor boards popping up, nails unclasping, ceiling chipping...

What matter "calm" or "principled" or "snarky" or "angry" tuxedos at this Grandest of Parties?

You know...

How to *think through* a larger "concept" - something perhaps along the lines of a Greater Americas -

So that a reading of things - including many of the responses to Dark Bouquets - so that they become [read-to-become] *extensions* - rather than more (symptomatic) accretions of (what they used to call) "the margins"

Re: National Reclamation Cleanup Banter

Re: Toxic Waste

masks, goggles, seep-proof pantsuits, etc -

Re: Cat Walking - Fashion - "controversy"

- R. Toscano

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the misspelling of Rodney's name. I am quite familiar with him and know his work a bit.

I'm totally bemused by "Janet"'s claim that I "viciously" attacked Rodney. My initial comment probably sounded too jauntily dismissive, and I apologize to Rodney, if so. I expanded on that first comment later, offering some thoughts on what I saw as problematic in Rodney's argument about college syllabi, and such-- which I proposed might be seen as (innocently) symptomatic of a somewhat schizophrenic split in Flarf's ongoing "self-fashioning."

In any case, my comments were directed not at Rodney as a person (I didn't say a single mean thing about him!), about whom I've heard nice things, but at something specific he wrote. The comments that followed here from others, on the other hand, were spiteful, ad hominem, and shallow-- more revealing of an underlying insecurity and defensiveness, perhaps, than their authors likely realize.

But this is all part of the mix, too.

Rodney, by the way, while we're here: I'm probably going to be expanding the Mayday forum into a book collection of short essays on "the sociology and politics of poetry reviewing." Some prominent folks have expressed interest in adding their views. Would you like to contribute a brief essay on reviewing? Let me know.

And the invitation is still open to the other Flarf poets I'd initially invited!

OK, a good weekend to all,

Kent

Okla Elliott said...

Despite the occasional biting comment, I am glad that Mayday Issue 1 has caused such lively discussion. It makes me even more proud than I already was to be a part of it.

Thank you all, especially Mark for posting this blog in the first place.

Matt said...

after reading this comment stream i jumped out a window and died.

(heaven, it turns out, looks exactly like michigan, for anyone who's wondering.)

Anonymous said...

Matt: you SUCK. Don't insult Michigan with your cute "post avant" jokes (and haircuts). People have SWEATED there and worked with their HANDS and you offer giggly NOODLES, Matt, NOODLES. You SUCK. Go pump some iron or some GAS go get a JOB in the post-Michigan ECONOMY. Fruit.

------------BA

brian (baj) salchert said...

When I read a poetry review, I do so to learn something about a poet's art and craft. Therefore, I appreciate quotes. I also do so to learn some facts about a poet.

Because of what I'm interested in knowing, I prefer interviews to reviews.