Thursday, October 01, 2009


This morning I for some reason remember the whole "greatness" discussion from a while back. How David Orr or some such poet though there were not "great" poets and then many people responded variously. Mostly I think what he eulogized was the loss of a centralized canonical system that gave rise to the Robert Lowell phenomenon of the 1960s.

However, today I was thinking, how absurd this claim is when Alice Notley has been writing and publishing something akin to one incredibly ambitious continuous work since Descent of Alette in the early 90s. I mean if "Alma" isn't a "great" work, then what is? It fits most ideas about "greatness" - long, ambitious, political, visionary, daring.

That it's also great without quotation marks is perhaps however in the end more important.


Blogger Don Share said...

You must mean David Orr in the New York Times, not Gregory Orr.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Thanks.I'll change that. Never can get names straight.


8:18 AM  
Blogger Nada Gordon: 2 ludic 4 U said...

Yeah but Alice was a much better poet before she "assumed the mantle of greatness."

In my opinion.

8:51 AM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

You should take a look at the essay Lorraine wrote in response to Alma and that she presented at the Evergreen literary conference about a year and a half ago. I think her take on some of the complexities of Alma is worth knowing about.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


My post was sslightly contorted because I don't think she has taken on the mantle of "great poet." Despite the great scope of these books, there are elements that very much runs counter to boring notions of greatness. Dead children, for example.

Send me a link I'd like to read it.

Actually the reason I thought of it is that Joyelle just wrote an amazing analysis of the book in an essay on Notley, Artaud and Japanese poet Ito Hiromi.


9:15 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Also, I want to add that I think Alma is probably my favorite Notley book.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...


How does Elizabeth Barrett Browning fare under your concept of greatness?


11:18 AM  

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