Although the Vrzhu Research Bureau is busy these days with theoretical pursuits, the VRB still has time to provide useful advice for today’s consumer. With the holiday gifting season upon us, the VRB’s Consumer Affairs Advocacy Division is passing on the following information to members of the general public.
With Christmas just around the corner, you may have discovered a poet of some kind on that wish list that your children keep reminding you about. Right now may be the last time you are able to think rationally about this situation, so now is the best time to decide if this wish is one that is going to be fulfilled or not. If you are thinking about adding a poet to your family, it’s best to learn about the needs of different types of poets to find one that will best suit your lifestyle, since returning a poet is usually not an option and reselling the poet is not only hard on your children and you its not really a picnic for the poet either.
Each type of poet is different in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing and demands on your time. If you know what you’re getting into, you’ll be more likely to have a marginally happy poet, a good relationship with your poet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise.
Here are some things to think about as you consider what type of poet to get:
What type of poet is the best fit for your home? Lyric? Post-Avant? Beat? Will you be able to live with the wear-and-tear caused by poets?
Because the actual purchase of the poet and necessary supplies can run into quite a bit of money, you must decide if you're ready financially to support a poet, making sure to take into consideration liquor bills, housing, nutritional needs, grooming needs, liquor bills.
If you have children, how will having a poet affect them? Will everyone in your
home welcome a poet? And will this poet cause reactions in anyone in the family? You can test this by visiting people with the same type of poet you are considering.
How much space do you have inside and outside your home? The amount of space you have is also a factor. Is there room in your household for a poet? Some require minimal space, while others require lots of space. You need to decide if you have sufficient room for the poet that your hearts are irrationally yearning for.
If you are renting, does your landlord permit poets and will he require an extra deposit to cover the poet? Please check this out ahead of time - sneaking the poet in is not fair to anyone and will only cause heartache in the end.
How much time do you have to spend with a poet? You need to determine whether or not you have time for a poet. This means not only do the children have time, but also do YOU have time. Once the newness of a poet wears off, someone is still going to have a time commitment toward it. Unlike the toy that got broken or the jeans that are soon out grown, a new poet is going to require attention for a lot longer.
What is your tolerance level for poetry?
But the best overall thing you can do is first check out what poets are like. Attend readings, workshops and poetry societies to get hands-on experience with an actual poet to see if you are going to be comfortable with him or her.
Finally, it really is better to wait until after Christmas before acquiring a poet. There are only a couple of benefits for getting the poet and giving it Christmas morning, while there is a whole list of reasons why its better to wait.
Giving A Poet Christmas Day:
- A definite element of surprise
Giving A Poet After Christmas:
- You don't have to find a place to keep the poet until Christmas morning.
- You can see how the poet interacts with the rest of the family.
- No figuring out what to do with the poet while people visit or where to put poet while you go to visit.
- It's less stressful on your poet to be introduced to a "normal routine" as opposed to hectic holidays.
- You will have more time to devote into making everyone comfortable with the new addition in a relaxed atmosphere and can explain the care needed for a poet.
- A poet is less likely to be cast aside as the rest of the gifts are explored and played with.
Remember - NEVER spontaneously decide to purchase a poet - its not fair to anyone involved.
This the Vrzhu Research Bureau’s Consumer Affairs Advocacy Division, and that’s…Something to Think About.
The Avant-Garde in fiction and poetry
In a recent New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith discusses two novels on either side of a fissure in fiction writing. On one side is what Smith calls Lyric Realism. On the other, well, whatever doesn’t want to be that.
Towards the end of the essay, Smith says something that reminded me of a similar predicament within the poetry world.
I like the idea that the two sides have a crossroads, a meeting place where certain writers fit into *both* categories, the lyrical realists and the experimentalists. This is clearly not a “third way” kind of argument, since the crossroads don’t exist independently of the roads that meet there. Or maybe it’s that, if you’re good enough, you both contain and transcend both kinds of writing, in the same way that a crossroads is made up of two roads, and also categorically different from what roads are. A crossroads does something different than what a road does.
And it certainly also true in the poetry business that there are poets claimed by both "sides," such as Ashbery, Oppen, and Spicer.
By the way, Zadie Smith a terrific essayist on writers, fiction and writing. She’s ultra-smart and incisive, and exciting to read. Take a look here.
The Avant-Garde in Poetry and Film
I was going to seg from Zadie Smith to some veiled and abstract discussion on the status of the avant-garde in the various arts, but really I was thinking about a particular thing. So I decided to just say what I was thinking.
I always enjoy reading what Ron Silliman has to say on his blog, and I sometimes agree with what he has to say. But there are times when he irks me, and I can't let it go.
One of those irks I may have mentioned before, was the assertion that poetry of necessity has moved beyond narrative, but that movies are still allowed to have narrative, and traditional structure. Or that poems that imply a narrative are not good, while movies with narratives are ok because movies have taken on that role while poetry has divested itself of it.
I guess this bothers me because it seems like special pleading for both poetry and films, and I think this position is untenable, as a position.
"The dilution or rejection of conventional narrative and straighforward realism is the predominant tendency of contemporary art. The multi-faceted, fluid nature of reality can no longer be subsumed in the certainities of of linear narrative structures."
and later in the same chapter:
"Film, the most modern of arts, has not remained exempt from these new developments. Nonetheless, Hollywood still hankers after nineteenth-century style, stories and type-cast stars; after all Gone With The Wind, The Sound Of Music and Love Story sell the largest number of tickets.
But both independent avant-garde and the serious 35-mm directors have been profoundly affected."
Does this not sound quite similar to the argument for using the broad brush of "School of Quietude" on a large swathe of poetries?
This is not to say I want Ron to stop reviewing movies. There are many bloggers/reviewers I wish would stop whatever it is they're doing (no, not *you*), but I enjoy Mr. Silliman's posts, even the movie reviews. I just want to reserve my right to snipe at them like the flea that I am.
I does seem, though, that experimental (for lack of a better word) films [and novels] are harder to find than so-called post-avant poetry books. This clearly due in part to the differing distribution systems: bookstores versus movieplexes. Poetry takes up less shelf space than novels, and the money gap between poetry books that sell and poetry books that don't sell is a lot way smaller than between best-selling novels and novels that sit on the shelf prestigiously.
There are probably filmmakers, as there are poets and novelists, claimed by both sides--crossroaders--in the film world. This is from a while back but Jordan Belson concocted some of the special effects in The RIght Stuff, and Brackhage's technique of scratching or otherwise altering the film stock itself shows up in Irma Vep.
Oh, and the Vogel book is an amazing resource. Vogel was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania when it came out and so ran a film series to go along with it. *That* was amazing. Anecdote: On what I guess was Parent's Day (Homecoming?, Orientation?) at the U of P, Vogel gave a lecture for parents going over what he taught in his classes. The lecture itself was very much in the academic mode and talked a lot about historical context, technique, science, the evolution of film art. At the end of the lecture, Vogel played a film clip to illustrate his prospectus: The memorable scene from Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson and Sally Struthers, at the end of which JN reveals the logo on the only clothes worn in the scene, his T-shirt. It says "Triumph."
The New York Avant-Garde(ish)
Another blog (Don Share's) had a post up about the An Anthology of New York Poets, edited by Ron Padgett and David Shapiro. I picked up a copy a decade or so ago for a couple bucks. Apparently, it's out of print (you can find used copies through various bookfinders online, for what that's worth), though it is an essential and scintillating anthology. RP and DS picked the poets in it, both had to agree (Fight!) on them, and then--this is a v. nice touch--let the poets chose what poems to put in and in what order, because part of being a poet is knowing which poems are worth their salt. Great idea, and it makes you look at the poems in a different light, somehow.
Another thing that grabbed me in AAONYP were the poets I wasn't familiar with: Kenward Elmslie, Tom Veitch, Lewis MacAdams, Frank Lima, Jim Brodey, John Perreault, Michael Brownstein, Peter Schjeldahl, Dick Gallup. None these poets have disappeared off the face of the earth, a lot of them are still publishing and writing. It's not that they're unknown, it's that I'm not that knowledgable. Schjeldahl, for instance, is an art critic of renown, and was/is the art critic for the New Yorker. He was even tarred and feathered in the New York Sun!
But he also, he says, was abandoned by poetry sometime in the early 80's, when he was somewhere in his early 40's. Here's a poem from the anthology by Schjeldahl:
To the National Arts Council
Hello America, let’s tell the truth!
Robert Lowell is the least distinguished poet alive.
And that’s just a sample
Of what it’s going to be like now that us poets are in charge
Of poetry, at last (it’s all we ever wanted, really,
But nobody would believe it), and from now on if
You want literature you’ll have to come to us
And ask for it, nicely, and with a ready checkbook,
And even so we may “not wish to be disturbed”—
Inconvenient, you bet, but then literature
Has always been an inconvenient business, especially
Since the 18th Century, and even in America
Our favorite country! It’s true, we like it here,
So don’t tell us to go back to Russia
Or Parnassus—those places mean nothing to us.
We’d prefer even Gary, or Mississippi, or
The Mojave Desert, where at least there are people
Speaking, seven days a week, the language we propose
To glorify; and, if you like that, fine!
But you won’t, or not much, because we reserve the right
To be the “conscience” of America, without (mind
You) being overly anguished about it, which means
We’ll say embarrassing things habitually, not giving
A shit for “national unity” (the only “national unity” for us
Is the national unity of poetry, which is meaningless
But only us poets know in what way meaningless).
So you’d best get set to like it or lump it when I tell you,
Fellow Americans, that we are citizens of the stupidest
“Imperial Power” in all history, still fighting that mean
And furtive little war for the Philippine Islands.
How can you ever get over, Americans,
That Aquinaldo once thought we were wonderful?
He couldn’t believe it when we started butchering his men,
And now the whole world believes it only too well!
And only us American poets still see the pure heart
That beats in America, and profess it
While having none of its blockhead “policies.” We’re tired
Of being schizophrenic! Let America be schizophrenic for a change!
And if this nation should go down in flames, that’s
Terrible! But there in the rubble you’d find us, not
Learning Chinese, but correcting our American cadences,
And if that isn’t patriotism, America, what is?
from David Shapiro of New York Poets, ed. &
BUT (The Old Guard Avant-Garde)
Back in print, crazily enough, is Robert Bly's little diatribe with illustrative poems, Leaping Poetry. It's not an anthology per se, so it would be unfair to compare it to An Anthology of New York Poets (An Anthology of New York Poets is better), but it made an impression on me when it came out way back when, when what I knew about poetry would have fit in an absinthe spoon. I think it would make an interesting adjunct textbook for introducing high school attendees to poetry. Does anyone know if it's been used in that way? Anyone know the story behind it back being in print?