Friday, June 08, 2007

"TIME" Bomb?

Excerpts From : "Poems for the People"
By LEV GROSSMAN (Time Magazine)

On Poetry's Popularity

Chances are, you don't read much poetry, at least not the new stuff. Don't feel bad, hardly anybody does. To hit the best-seller list for verse, a book has to sell only around 30 copies. Poetry is the spinach in America's media diet: good for you, occasionally baked into other, tastier dishes (like the cameo that W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues made in Four Weddings and a Funeral) but rarely consumed on its own. In the hierarchy of cultural pursuits it sits somewhere just below classical music and just above clogging.

On Poetry's Slow Demise

But the 20th century saw the rise of Modernism and brilliant but difficult and allusive writers like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. ... Poems became less like high-end pop songs and more like math problems to be solved. They turned into the property of snobs and professors.

On "Poetry Magazine's" John Barr

A small, sun-baked man, Barr is unusually smiley and energetic for a poet, and he set about his job with a distinctly unpoetic efficiency.

Barr also ruffled some feathers. A zealous and unembarrassed populist, he declared his determination to make poetry less morose and more entertaining.

Barr also published several essays criticizing the state of American poetry. He accused it of "intellectual and spiritual stagnation." He called out poets for being addicted to lyric poetry (as opposed to, say, epic or satirical poetry) and for being obsessed with formal experimentation.

He dissed M.F.A. programs for churning out careerist, cookie-cutter poets who were "sustained by a system of fellowships, grants, and other subsidies that absolve recipients of the responsibility to write books that a reader who is not a specialist might enjoy, might even buy."

Barr & Controversy

Barr plays down the controversy. "We're definitely not trying to dumb down poetry," he says. "We're not trying to introduce the notion that we would judge quality by book sales or even accessibility. But if poetry has somehow lost touch with a broader readership, there's an opportunity to reverse that. People are going to love poetry when they get back to it."

Even if you don't agree with Barr's solutions, he has at least admitted a fundamental and painful cultural fact: that something has changed, that the great voices of our time no longer speak in verse.


What poetry really needs is a writer who can do for it what Andy Warhol did for avant-garde visual art: make it sexy and cool and accessible without making it stupid or patronizing.

* via Reb Livingston's Post

Lev Grossman (born 1969-06-26) is an American writer, notably the author of the novels Codex [1] and Warp. He also contributes regularly to Time, primarily as a book reviewer. He has written for The New York Times, Salon, Lingua Franca, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, and The Village Voice.

I'm not sure as to whether one, as a poet, should be more chagrined by the now ludicrously redundant description that has been accredited to the state of poetry as a socio-literary entity that is languishing in its death throes or by Mr. Grossman's (reverse-stereotypical) description of John Barr as "unusually smiley and energetic" for a poet & "distinctly unpoetic efficiency" - which of course implies that poets are usually morose, sluggish & inefficient.


Collin said...

Another poetry is dead article. If it's so dead, why do people still write about it? It's a load of they say in Scotland.

Brian Campbell said...

If anything makes poets morose, it's BS like this guy propagates.

Nick said...

I think Greg Rappleye says it best:

Perhaps it is journalism and not poetry that has failed.

Rachel Mallino said...

To quote Charlie Brown: "Good grief!"