Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Jeffrey Bahr's attack on one of the Chiasson poems I discussed is mostly interesting to me for its wealth of unexamined aesthetic assumptions about what a "good" poem is or should look like: his reading is entirely oriented toward what makes a poem an invulnerable object or monument, ignoring or obscuring other possible attitudes and valences (poem as discourse, poem as social actor, poem as social tactic or meditation on same). These "poetry boards" to which he alludes sound like EST gone wrong or the self-criticism undergone by Maoist cadres, in which everything that doesn't lie on a single Procrustean plane is burnt and purged away. Earning respect? More like a fraternity hazing, or respect in the Mafia sense of "men of respect" who are "made" by committing an arbitrary murder. You can't discuss what Jeffrey calls "tactics" (the moves made in a poem) without a prior discussion of strategy, a discussion that it sounds like these po-boards permanently defer. The result is a poet getting beaten up for playing chess on a checkers board. In the words of my namesake from WarGames, the only winning move is not to play.

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