18 jul. 2005

Speaking of dull writers and their writing processes. Jordan likes this poem, and indeed it is very likeable. An engaging fantasy of poetic celebrity and ambition. I have to ask, though, what this fantasy of having the flight attendants take interest in his "writing process" really says? (The narcissism of this is quite incredible, once you get past the likeability.) Like when I'm on the plane, my fantasy is to have a flight attendant recognize me. "Aren't you Jonathan Mayhew, from the Bemsha Swing blog? Do you write in the morning or the night?" And of course he has to place the process of writing in some stereotypically meditative setting and end the poem with a godamn nature image. Couldn't you just see that coming? Fucking swans? Since this is from the "humor" issue, I sure hope he's making fun of himself.

14 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

Oh I think it's absolutely parodic. He's needling the genteel self-regarding pose of certain elder statesmen of letters.

If I thought for a second this was a sincere straightforward poem about wanting to share his wisdom and process with flight attendants I would be laughing much harder.

Jonathan dijo...

That's the problem, isn't it? It's not quite far enough away from the typical Collins tone to be an outright parody. If it were either more or less serious, it would be funnier.

garylmcdowell dijo...

I'm not sure this poem isn't somewhat serious. That would be right up Collins' alley. His stuff has become so 'fill-in-the-blanks' that he can't even parody himself anymore.

But that's just my humble opinion.

G

Jonathan dijo...

Humble or not, I agree with you. People say it's a simplistic poetry, but you could actually do a complex anaysis of exactly what this fantasy reveals about such "genteel self-regarding poses." Or just have Jim Behrle do a cartoon and save yourself the trouble.

Jordan dijo...

You may have a point about the wryness -- hadn't felt the invitation to join in the self-flattery quite so acutely until you pointed it out.

I guess I'm not as down on BC on g.p. as I had suspected...

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I thought it was ironic and actually quite funny up to the last six lines. It seemed to be obviously self-aware, knowing that nobody would care about his writing process. The poet thinking that real and justified lack of interest must always be interpreted as "lack of courage" to "open up". All of it obviously bullshit, I thought I heard Collins saying. Even the image of a whole plane hushing to listen, seemed like a Saturday Night Live sketch. But then he puts in what looks like (am I wrong about this?) an absolutely earnest sentiment about how he feels when writing, how a beaver must feel when building. Suddenly we are made to take the "sense that all of them/were ready to open up, to get to know me better,/perhaps begin a friendship" seriously. That's ridiculous. And it's condescending to Lynn and Debbie. It's ridiculously elitist, it makes Collins a literary snob. His characters had more dignity than he did up til the last six lines, which he suddenly assumes they will find truly interesting, wondrous, challenging, etc. I don't think Florence gives a damn. And I think she's right not to. I don't think Collins agrees with me. This poem, in any case, gives me the impression that he thinks its more valuable to feel like a beaver when standing at the window in the morning, all ready to compose a poem, than serving drinks on a plane.

Jesse dijo...

to your mention, closing with a so-called nature image is really weak, in context..... but, i read the poem in part as a statement or invitation to people like us, the bloggers who harshly detract from the poet in question. so i enjoyed it on that level. so much i do not know, i'm not about to underestimate anyone.

Jonathan dijo...

I picked up on that elitist tone and the condescension, too, Thomas. I'm defininely not down with BC in the AD.

K. Silem Mohammad dijo...

If one wanted to defend the poem further, one could point out that the last six lines are funny just because they're so classically hackneyed--the perfect example of "sincere" nature-oriented poetic reflection--and by virtue of the absurd context they create the basis for: the flight attendants nodding sensitively in response, eyelashes fluttering, in love with the very idea of the swans.

Billy Collins makes a terrible poet, but he'd make a great sitcom (animated?) about a terrible poet.

Jordan dijo...

I think y'all are reading the poem through a lens of generalized indignation at BC.

The ending is damn funny -- "The only emotion I ever feel, Debbie and Lynn,/is what the beaver must feel" -- even without the risibly flarfy overtones, that's deadly parody of self-serious process statements.

The question Jonathan raised for me earlier in this comments field was whether Collins' parody was too smug and self-praising -- but judging by the responses I'm seeing here, it's BC's dryness that's leading to negative misinterpretations more than anything else.

Jonathan dijo...

)))

I don't know if that's a defense of the poem, exactly! If you make it sound worse, it''s better, because it's a parody. I laughed harder at KSM's comment about the fluttering eyelashes than anythng in the poem itself.

I still can't decide whether it's too knowing, or not knowing enough. Doesn't irony depend on one's previous knowledge of the ironist's position. Thus the generalized BC dislke may color all of our resposes. All I know is that my comment boxes are jumping today.

Those beavers have got me thinking... don't want to go there...

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Yes, I think if the image Kasey conjures up was somehow built into the last six lines then the poem would be sort of "saved". The ending is unintentionally funny.

Maybe it's because the implicit poet doesn't mention Lynn's love of the swans that he seems to be not knowing enough. Leaving it out, precisely leaves it implicit, i.e., makes it part of the poet's sincere, secret desire. Lynn, the poet thinks, really would love my deep feelings about swans. But sometimes when we touch, the honesty's too much. . .

Jesse dijo...

beavers are noble in my reckoning. is BC no bull?

Jesse dijo...

i'm wasted. you guys are always a thrill.