Wednesday, September 27, 2006


(I shut down slapkoppel for a while because I was tired of existing in virtual space. Unfortunately I can't take the name back. Exoskeleton-Johannes was the only name that wasn't taken.)

Suburban-guy and Jimmy have been harranguing David Lehman over his self-aggrandizing "Best of American Poetry" series. On one hand, they are absolutely right. It's Lehman's pet project (and he is his own pet most of all).

However, I think the most foolish aspect of the project is the perpetuation of the idea that there is such a thing as "best" poems out there.

(Or that it's important to limit it to "American." As I'm not an American citizen, I guess I'm not eligible!)

This seems like such a rudimentary observation, yet I find that (most?) people are still invested in the notion of a "best" poem, or at least "legitimate" poem.

All you need to do is glance at Silliman's blog. He's incredibly conservative in his thinking, constantly needing to make simplistic judgments. So and so is the finest poet of her generation, so and so has the best ear, so and so has the best vocabulary. (He also believes in the supremacy of the "native speaker".)

I think it's useful to think about how different poets/poetriues are legitimized or de-legitimized.


Blogger François Luong said...

Regarding Silliman, I remember him writing about the immigration policies the Republicans were (and are still) pushing a couple of months ago, and how it went against "everything he knew about population migrations." I find it amusing that in his writing, he is not applying this to his thought on poetry (e.g., the silly and somewhat orientalizing review of Barbara Jane Reyes's work a couple of months ago). I don't think I've seen him write much about foreign writers (except for that post on Mayakovsky a long time ago)(unlike, say, Joris, Hejinian, Bernstein, &c).

But I think that the migration of poets alongside with that of population plays an important part in the introduction of new "genes" to the pool of a localized poetry. For example, Celan in Paris, Tzara moving to Zurich and then Paris, Breton staying for a bit in New York, &c.

Which is why I think promoting an "American" poetry seems extremely silly, but I wonder what this effort from publishers to push the "Best American" thing (not only the BAP, but also Best American Short Fiction, Best New American Voices in Fiction, Best American Lawnmowing, &c.) says about American culture and the way Americans in general see themselves.

Glad to have you back.

1:25 PM  
Blogger François Luong said...

On the other hand, I will give credit to Ron for exposing some poets I would have not read because they are not taught as part of the cannon (such as, surprisingly, the Objectivists, Robert Duncan, and others).

1:00 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Something about simplicity legitimates as an engagement with a sense of an other, perhaps transcendental, but more frequently a different sense than the idea of what should be. The vagueness between syntaxes, like the haiku in its form, romances ignorance with that dreamy motivating desire to go there where we are not in limbo. Reactionary, clarity, anti-hegemonic, differential, feminist, aesthetic, considerations as expressions of, say, a fart. This experience is the best one. This experience is the worst and the same. All propositions are of equal value but not, either. We may be autodidacts. How about, we may be: I embrace doubt before being. And then must career. Which of our ideals do we sacrifice and how?

3:35 PM  

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