3 abr. 2006

While we are on the subject of rants--I picked up a copy of the anthology Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970 (1987) edited by Codrescu the other day. I thought it might be fun to have. It's got many of my favorite poets, but each is represented badly by a few pages. There are a lot of poets, few worthwhile pages in proportion to the bulk of the book. He seems to have chosen many poems that have the agressive affect of a rebellious thirteen-year old. (That seems to be the criterion of selection, in fact.) A lot of people strongly influenced by Ted Berrigan but who lack whatever it was made Berrigan good. Even the selection of Berrigan leaves out the best side of Berrigan: the postcards and sonnets. A lot of very slight Ron Padgett-style poems, but written without Ron's grace and wit. It almost drags down Ron and Ted to the level of their imitators. Never did the minorness of certain minor poets seem more minor. Maybe you had to have been friends with all these people. It makes me pine for Liz Bishop.

A poem about how we are making progress as a society--because more women nowadays enjoy breast-feeding and fellatio. A poem about hating Robert Lowell and wasps (by a poet I usually like, and I would even like this poem in another context). It's all very jejune, Tom Clarkish. Codrescu even puts himself in! Why not? He's not worse than a lot of what he selects.

Maybe this seemed fresh in 1987. If so, it shows the effect of choosing poems based on their "bottled on" date.

Maybe that's just my mood. I am obviously a profoundly unhappy person just to bother panning this 19-year old anthology. It's like bringing your conservative friend to see your favorite poets read--only to have these poets act like caricatures of bad avant-garde poets.

5 comentarios:

Nick dijo...

Hi Jonathan--I agree 100% with your rant; sent ranting message to Buffalo list (breaking oath to self in so doing)--gist of my rant: it's absolutely textbook bourgeois taste, smug universalizing of particular class aesthetic values (comp. the recent Billy Collins discussion)..........on a completely different note that anthology was a Christmas present at age, not 13, but maybe 16?, literally my first taste of experimental poetics. I agree entirely with your negative review, except to say: I still remember a few poets from that book. Without lifting it off the shelf, poems by Notley, Mayer & Hollo--and Bill Knott all stuck with me, before I knew who those people were.......OK now that I look I think my 16yr old self was making decent enough choices......

Jordan dijo...

Ayup, one of the first anthologies I read, too - there was a typo in on of the three words of Ted Berrigan's poem "Missing You" - instead of "In Air Canada" it read "In Air Canda" - I went many months thinking Berrigan must have been some kind of concrete poet to pine for the missing "a" there.

It's an okay book, it definitely skews early-days-of-the-slams. It's not so good as to justify the out-and-out unpleasantness of the Body Bag feature they used to run in Exquisite Corpse - the Bag would list all the rejected submissions since the previous issue, stopping to note the problems with each. I got into it the way I got into the Howard Stern show or John Hughes movies - that whole 80s vogue for celebrating and abusing misfits.

I wouldn't recommend the book to anybody who's already reading poetry. But bright, inward-directed teens? Maybe.

Jonathan dijo...

Yeah, I was wondering how it might seem to a younger version of myself.

shanna dijo...

the body bag was just awful. a friend of mine appeared there once and it made her cry.

Dan dijo...

I remember Uplate being one of the first anthologies I found in the library in my undergrad days that contained Berrigan, et al. Wasn't the Berrigan poem the one where he dreams he's flying w/Jim Carroll to accept an award?

The book didn't turn me off from poetry and didn't offend my sensibilities, since what I had in the way of sensibilities were too un(in)formed to be offendible. But I just remember thinking - there's got to be more.