11 ago. 2005

You can have read a lot of poetry and have nearly infallible taste, like myself, and still come up short: wanting to like a new book of poetry, but failing, or distrusting the sense in the gut that something is too facile for its own good. When it leaves me cold, is it me or is it him? Or her? Yet that space of uncertainty is where the real critical reflection must come in. That's the only challenge left. I had infallible taste until yesterday, when I got a book of poetry in the mail that doesn't respond to my infallible judgment. it doesn't fit. Despite the fact it draws on 100 writers that are easily identifiable that I have also read, it's not clear whether this embededness in tradition is a good thing or a bad, in this particular context. I can't love 2,000 writers of today, like Silliman. Each one is a conquest and a struggle.

I don't particularly like a few books I got in the mail recently. At every gesture, every move, I cringe and think "that's not the way to do it." I hate the wordiness, the similes, the forced jokes, of one. The other seems glib and has ideas I have had too but wouldn't have used because they seem too obvious. Yet this seems to be more of a case of the narcissism of small differences. In both cases I can imagine writing the same poems but just a little bit *better.* That's fatal for me: when I want to take the pencil to the poem and write it over again the way it should have been written. I never get this sense with poets I really like.

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