Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Klassnik (#2)

Another way of describing the book:

An interesting thing often missed about discussions of Edson/Simic is that their supposedly "soft" surrealism comes from Michaux, who in Europe is considered the Great Surrealist Poet, but whose work is barely known in the US. The same is true of Klassnik.

What makes Simic's poetry less good (though not "soft," I love softness and Ron's dichotomy is sexist etc) than Michaux's is the silliness. I think the silliness in Simic works a little like how Zizek says silliness works in pornos (you have to have some stupid plumber scenario or "The Wizard of Ahhs" etc) - a kind of censorhip. We don't have to be scared, it's silly in the end. Like Simic, Klassnik's poetry is influenced by Michaux, but without Simic's censoring silliness.


Blogger Jordan said...

Really? Simic comes from Michaux and not from the homegrown mitteleuropean strain of surrealism that produced Popa et al? (not to speak of the midwestern surrealism of Bly's journal The Sixties).

I wouldn't put Michaux in with the softies at all. He's much too programmatic, even when he yields to cartoonish impulses.

I'm hoping you'll say more about laziness and Klassnik. I'm having trouble finding a way in with that book.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

No, I was being inarticulate as usual.

I absolutely don't mean that Michaux is "soft" (in fact I'm opposed to that word). Even when he's funny he's not silly.

But I do think Simic comes largely from Edson, who seems to get a lot from Michaux.Of course he gets a lot from Popa too.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I've never completely understood the fascination at Iowa et al with Edson. He's competent and funny and all, but the manic irritability...

There's often more than a whiff of entitlement coming off celebrated American poets.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

OK, so I tried again with Klassnik. I think I see what you like about the book -- it's brutal and vivid, and the aesthetic goes all the way around, isn't a put on. I'm wondering what your take is on early C.K. Williams, or recent work by Marie Howe and Franz Wright.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

yes, that's perhaps a better way to put it.

I haven't really read the people you mention except for CK Williams, whose work seems so saturated with sentimentality.

But another person to bring into the mix might be the person you reviewed recently for Constant Critic, Lawrence somebody or another. I haven't had time to read the book yet.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

David Lawrence. You may be right, though for some reason I've segregated him from this discussion.

Early CKW isn't very sentimental, I don't think. In the later books he starts going for a cinematic effect; I agree that he becomes sentimental. At the beginning, though, he seems to be going for a Dostoevskyan quality.

I'll pipe down now.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Stan Apps said...

I like your critique of Simic here; it captures what's annoying about his poetry.

The type of American surrealism I particularly dislike is narrative surrealism, where a series of hackneyed narrative tropes are used to move us between "surreal" cliches. Some of James Tate is like this.

4:01 PM  

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