2 abr. 2006

New York Times with Insults

The New York Times tells us this morning (David Orr): : "...during the second half of the twentieth century, no American artist in any medium was greater than Bishop."

How about Coltrane? Monk? Miles? Rothko? Pollock? De Kooning? Feldman? Cage? O'Hara? Cornell? Nabokov? Asbhery? Creeley? Plath? Ornette? Coolidge? Just quite possibly Elizabeth Bishop, an accomplished and justly esteemed poet, is not quite as "great" as many or any of these figures, you blithering idiot. Maybe it's not wise to single out *anyone* as the greatest American artist "in any medium," you fricking moron. What, did you you think we would forget about the existence of Charlie Parker and assent to your ridiculous assertion, you deranged though reasonable-sounding cretin? It certainly makes that half century sound rather impoverished, if Bishop is the absolute best of the bunch, you fatuous blowhard. Bishop, for all her subtlety, cannot match up to Stevens, García Lorca, Rilke, Pessoa, or even quite possibly Marianne Moore, her own mentor, you insane ignoramus. Did we really just live through so culturally poor an epoch? As wonderful as she is, it does her no service to inflate her reputation: let us snobs appreciate her for what she is, a poet's poet's poet, in Ashbery's formulation. Don't make her compete in the "greatness" sweepstakes, you imperious imbecile.

32 comentarios:

Tom Beckett dijo...

Whoa! J-dawg, calm down.

Jonathan dijo...

I am perfectly calm. What makes you think I'm not calm?

Scoplaw dijo...

You actually still read the Times?

Diana Marie Delgado dijo...

I think you reacted appropriately. What an asanine comment! It's American-centric, not to mention unnerving.

JWG dijo...

and they get paid to write.

James dijo...

Decaf tastes almost as good, dude.

shanna dijo...

bah ha! ha ha!

David dijo...

Dude, I thought Bernie Williams was the greatest artist of this half. And the guy writes in NY.

Henry Gould dijo...

Did you find anything worthwhile in the review, Jonathan?

nolapoet dijo...

Sigh...this is like bitching about who got left out of the latest anthology.

I'd certainly venture to say that Bishop is among the very best two or three American poets between 1950 and 2000. Quality over quantity; substance over style.

As for Ashbery, we'll agree to disagree...

Simon dijo...

Don't forget, even the Grey Lady sometimes stoops to trolling.

Stop trolling the blogosphere, New York Times!

Or I will post about women!

deposition dijo...

I think it's funny how your list is only slightly less restricted than David Orr's, since your nominations of best postwar American artsist are largely male, high-cultural heroes from prestige genres of art, like jazz, modernist painting, and poetry. I mean, you could have argued, "Why didn't David Orr think of Steven Spielberg, Kurt Cobain, Anthony Ainley, Michael Jackson, John Waters, Ice T, Marilyn Monroe, Matt Groening, Jack Kirby, Richard Pryor, Run DMC, Johnny Cash, etc.?"

Mike H dijo...

Don Knotts?

Jonathan dijo...

Jazz was not always a "prestige genre." It's interesting that it has become that now. I could have argued for Speilberg, etc... but I don't esteem any of these figures very greatly. Spielberg? If you'd said Scorcese it might have been interesting. If I had more time I would have added that Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Charles Schultz, Ray Charles, and Sarah Vaughn are all at least as interesting or "great" as Bishop. She is one of the two or three top academic poets of mid-century. That's about it. A minor figure, maybe better than others of her type, but not an epochal figure like Coltrane. My point was how absurd it would be to make this statement about almost anyone at all, you whiny punks.

I didn't find anything else of interesting in the review, because I didn't read past that first line. Why should I?

Jonathan dijo...

Just to take the Asbhery example, what did Bishop write greater than "The Skaters" or "Three Poems"? You are not, in fact, allowed to disagree with me on Ashbery unless you can answer that question. There's not such things as "substance over style" in poetry because the style is the substance and vice-versa.

shann dijo...

good grief- maybe he's editing a tribute collection by her and needs the reads.

idiot

JWG dijo...

"in the second half of the 20th century, no American artist in any medium was greater than Bishop"

"was greater than" not "as great as".

difference.

did the ny times change the quote?

Dan dijo...

Garcia Lorca, Pessoa, Rilke, were not American.

Word verification for this post: hkgxhkq

Dan dijo...

And anyway, everyone knows, or should know, that Steve Lacy was the greatest American artist in any medium. Most of the rest of the people you mention, and Bishop to boot, were medium artists in the Great America.

Word verification for this comment: eukdkgkv

Jonathan dijo...

I know they weren't. My point is that the misjudgment of Bishop makes American art seem rather provincial. Europe has Rilke, Lorca, and Pessoa, Celan and Stravinsky. But we have: Elizabeth Bishop!

JWG dijo...

Jonathan,

did i read yr blog wrong before? Didnt you have "as great as"? Oh well, but, w/ "was greater than", he didnt single anyone out as the greatest, just put E.B. in the group.

nolapoet dijo...

Jonathan, I think our difference is one between aesthetic schools and not some calculus of absolute greatness. I would happily put "One Art" up against "The Skaters." You would snark. I would snark back. We definitely agree that Orr made a ridiculous sweeping statement. The point is, the "why not x or y or z or a or b?" game can go on forever in a never-ending branching out of false comparisons. Have a look at William Logan's review in the New Criterion (I know, I know--hold your nose) and you'll find a far more reasoned review than Orr's.

Jonathan dijo...

Why would I want to read a review in the New Criterion? I don't get my poetry reviews from right-wing rags like that. It's not a question of aesthetic schools. Ashbery admired Bishop, as do I. It's a question of writers who actually create epochal changes in the art form. There is an absolute sense in which Asbhery is a major poet, and Bishop is not. It's the same way in which Coltrane is a major artist, and Sonny Stitt is not. It's not even a matter of taste. You are permitted to like Stitt more than Coltrane, but not to argue that he is "greater" than Coltrane. It is simply not a tenable position.

JWG dijo...

What if you said Stitt was as good as Coltrane, or Coltrane was as good as Stitt? Isn't that what the qoted line is saying. That there was no better poet than EB, but that leaves room that there were some who were just as good.

are you misstating their argument? Maybe I am just misreading it.

three posts in one thread is enough. I'll be quiet now.

nolapoet dijo...

Jonathan, why don't you offer some *evidence* for your assertion that Ashbery is categorically a "better" poet than Bishop?... Offering a poem without a critique doesn't count. I really am interested in your rationale here.

nolapoet dijo...

P.S. Your claim seems to be that Ashbery is great because he "created epochal changes in the art form." You don't address whether the change was for the better or the worse.

You're also making a dangerously close-minded generalization about the politics and critical abilities of The New Criterion's contributors.

Jonathan dijo...

I couldn't prove that Bishop is better than Ashbery any more than you could prove the contrary. I could make a good argument, but that's not even the ultimate point. Orr makes the argument that "we live in a world Elizabeth Bishop created," because that's what great artists do. But Bishop, great as she is, is not at all *that* kind of artist, in my opinion. Even people who think she's greater than I think she is don't usually make that argument about her (except for Orr.) She is not the kind of artist who changes the art and the "look of things." Ashbery and O'Hara are that kind of artist. So are Coltrane and Monk. The world we live in is different because they existed: they created new visions of reality. We can't ignore them. That's different than practicing an art form successfully or even brilliantly. You don't have to like these artists to realize that they *epochal* in a certain sense. It doesn't even make sense to say that the change is for the better or the worse, since there is no progress in the arts. I might prefer Wiliams to Ashbery or vice-versa, but then again I might prefer Baroque to Classical.

As for William Logan, I have read his reviews many times in the past. I've even read Hilton Kramer. It is not closed-mindedness, but long experience, that puts me off The New Criterion.

Jonathan dijo...

Ashbery is like Miles. He recreated poetry several times in his lifetime. Out of The Tennis Court Oath Came one kind of work. Out of Three Poems another. Out of Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror quite another. Ashbery tells us what it is be alive in the present. Our very reality would be different without him.

Bishop is a different kind of poet. I imagine an intelligent case for her would avoid the kind of "we live in a world she created" rhetoric. Nobody doesn't think she's good; she's kind of a repository of craft and good writing, a poet's poet's poet, as Ashbery said about her. That's how she should be esteemed. That being said, I think she was working within a style that many others were also working in at the time, with very similar results. You could argue that she is the best of that particular bunch, I suppose. I have respect for her but was never overwhelmed. I do like the poem "The tumult in the heart..."

nolapoet dijo...

You say "Ashbery tells us what it is [to] be alive in the present. Our very reality would be different without him." The same can be said of Bishop.

I don't think Bishop is a "repository" or any other sort of vessel for craft. She's no mere holding tank, nor the backhanded compliment of being a "poet's poet's poet," which implies that she is too obscure, difficult, etc. for general readers.

I have read many issues of TNC albeit very selectively (poetry and crit, not political rants). I don't base my reading habits strictly upon whether or not their editors fit my political ideology. You refer to Miles Davis as paradigm-changer. Miles was a notorious wife-beater. Should you therefore throw out any Miles CDs you may own?

Basically, Ashbery's main stock-in-trade is putting narrative prose into linebreaks. That just doesn't do it for me as a poet. Yes, I know he wrote some (objectively bad) endrhymed couplets. "Yet I know / That no one else's taste is going to be / Any help, and might as well be ignored."

Jonathan dijo...

There's a lot more to Ashbery than that, surely. Have you read The Tennis Court Oath? (not narrative "prose") Three Poems? (no line breaks). His sestinas and pantoums? What the hell is "an objectively bad endrhymed couplet"? I know his poem "Some Trees" is in rhymed couplets, and Auden and Wilbur admired this poem. He also has a fine translation of a Baudelaire poem in very good rhymed couplets. If your referring to a few poems in which he uses rhyme in an explicitly parodic mode, you have to realize that the "badness" is deliberate. You would have to be tone deaf not to realize that.

nolapoet dijo...

The fig leaf of "deliberate" badness as parody is insufficient cover. A poorly-executed parody is a waste of time.

1) I said his stock in trade was the prose linebreak, NOT that he wrote every single piece that way, referring to the hideously tone-deaf "Some Words" as one example. I'm sitting here with the Selected Poems, BTW.

2) Tone-deaf I am not.

3) Ashbery's work just doesn't interest me. I'm sorry. Of course I know he was a huge influence on legions of poets.

4) For complete explanations of what make a rhymed couplet "objectively bad," see the vast body of scholarship on prosody and versification. (It won't kill you, nor will it create a Vulcan mind-meld with either the editor of The New Criterion or William Logan.)

God, you're fun!

Jonathan dijo...

I have read a lot about prosody, but nothing there explains what makes a couplet objectively bad. In fact, prosodists don't agree on anything at all. (I did this as one of my PhD areas, in fact. Saintsbury, anyone?). There is no objectivity in value judgments, by definition. I think "Some Words" is wonderfully hilarious; you think it's bad. I do think you're tone deaf; you probably would think I am. Where's the objectivity there?