Monday, January 04, 2010

Steve Burt on Abject Motherhood

Steve Burt (who incidentally was part of the panel on which Joyelle gave the talk I published on this blog a couple of days ago, though he talked about the raw and the cooked dichotomy) has now published an essay in the Boston Review proclaiming Rachel Zucker the poet of abject motherhood. The review ends like this:

"With inferior poets who like to break taboos, the shocks are thematic—not formal—and they get old fast. With Zucker, you never know what the next line will hold. The point, the achievement, is not that she can gross us out, drive us around the bend, report the truth about her body, her husband, her sons, or the profession of poetry. The point is that these long, long lines, these stutters and splutters and blanks and lists, can portray, with more verve than anyone else has brought to such tasks, what it is like to be this person, this mother and teacher, at wit’s end: exhilarated, exhausted, exasperated, and able to show how it feels."

I like some of what Steve writes, but so much of it depends on attacking these un-named poets (He was the one who got me going on "hipsters" by using the hipster as the antidote to the very humane, real guy-poet he was discussing). Who are these inferior gross-out poets writing about abject motherhood? Can you name names? I'd like to know who you are attacking?


Blogger Stephanie said...

A few are named in the essay, actually.

4:23 AM  
Blogger Brennen Wysong said...

"With inferior poets who like to break taboos, the shocks are thematic—not formal—and they get old fast."

I don't see this statement pointing directly to poets writing about "abject motherhood."

Then again, I still don't know what "inferior poets who like to break taboos" are pointed to in the essay itself.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I don't agree, but I don't have time right now to go into it, I'll write a more extensive response perhaps tomorrow.


11:12 AM  
Blogger John Gallaher said...

Category generalizations (and generalizations in general) are always dangerous at such moments (and there’s my generalization). But rhetorically, writers seem to want them or to need them to complete their equation. It’s easier to say something is working (or to make the case that what you’re saying is important) if you can nod to something that you think fails . . . but going into specifics would threaten to put the focus on the something that you think fails—and who needs to make enemies anyway, when you can just gesture—so, enter the generalization. This essay doesn’t seem to have a fatal version of the move, as it doesn’t take away much from the point. From context, I can put together a list, but (here’s the rub) such a list would leave Burt the out that perhaps any person on that list—because not specifically mentioned by Burt—isn’t who he meant.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

Hmmm.. I'm just catching up with al of this. Accidentally read post #3 first, now this one, and next I'll go read #2.

I want to say that Johannes makes sense to me, in his initial crit. But that I know what Burt means (and I think I agree).

3:55 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

Which might be the problem, actually, now that I ponder it....

If someone can write an essay, assuming his generalities will be understood and fleshed out by his readers, that suggests a pretty closed circle, and a a pile of shared, accepted, (coded) unstated sentiments.


3:57 AM  

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