30 mar. 2005

There's a kind of sentimentality in seeing poets of other nations as heroic resisters and American poets as suburban idlers. This contrast was commonplace in the 1970s and persists to this day. Of course, there are poets who were heroic resisters, and suburban idlers with nothing very important to say. But to measure poets by their political salience in their native land is ultimately a mistake. Lorca was not a great poet because he was killed.

Brodsky and Milosz, I suspect, are vastly overrated. Once we take away the "witness to great historical events" topos, what is left? We would never accept poetry this bad if it weren't a translation from an original we presume to be brilliant.

***

A reviewer for Poetry magazine doesn't know what "musicality" in poetry is. Granted, it's an overused metaphor, but it has a real meaning, and there is no other word that can express this fundamental value quite as well. If you can't hear poetry, you shouldn't be in the business of reviewing it. To me, a poem can have a particular timbre and melody. Each poet has a particular sound, and each poem has a tune.