Monday, March 08, 2004

My knee-jerk reaction to Ron's test is to try and find something interesting in Ploughshares. How about this? Wouldn't be that out of place in Kiosk, I'm thinking.

Ron's constant categorization of poetry into us & them (there seem to be multiple "usses" but only one "them") strikes me as an example of how what starts as a convenient method for winnowing chaff becomes an end in itself—it's the dialectic of enlightenment all over again. I myself am swayed by the names of authors, blurbists, publishers, and the look/feel of a given book, magazine, or website. There's just too much stuff being published to not do this. But I think it's my responsibility as a reader to extend the antennae a bit further, to be at least prepared to receive signals from other sources. The anonymous "test of poetry" is too artificial; far from directing my attention more to the text itself, both Ron and Zukofsky's tests return me to the compulsive catbird seat of identity establishment: who wrote this? Better I think to listen to the advice of friends (and I certainly count other bloggers as friends, at least for this purpose); and better to not entirely shut one's ears to the "official" culture, however maddening the episodes this exposes you to might be. I certainly don't expect to do without Lucie Brock-Broido just because she's published by Knopf (and has several times appeared in Ploughshares!), reviewed in the New York Times, and dissed by Ray McDaniel (though I grant he makes some valid and interesting points, particularly about the "anonymity" of Brock-Broido's own work—that is, the exclusion of the language and furniture of modernity). Which is not to say I'm interested in pluralism for its own sake: I think the energy mustered by partisanship is too valuable a resource to be squandered. I'm just more interested in partisanship for kinds of writing than in partisanship against other kinds.

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