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The NY Times Conspires Against Poetry as Art

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The conclusion is inescapable.  The New York Times conspires to destroy the art of poetry in America.  I am not just referring back to my first blog, where I took the newspaper to task for coupling poetry with fiction.  As the conspiracy has advanced, just about every department of the paper evidences a hostility to poetry as art in favor of what I will loosely characterize as poetry as prose or as poetry as pop culture.  Let me give you some examples from today's Sunday Times. Let's start with the Sunday Times Book Review.  There you will find a listing of the "100 Notable Books of 2015."  Under the title of "Fiction & Poetry," there are three books that the selection committee apparently associates with poetry: "Citizen: An American Lyric" by Claudia Rankine; "From the New World: Poems 1976-2014," by Jorie Graham; and "S O S: Poems 1961-2013" by Amiri Baraks.  In a very
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A Morning Chuckle

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This morning I had a good chuckle.  In "THE ARTS" section of today's N.Y. Times, I encountered an article on the sale of the archive of The New York Review of Books to the New York Public Library. The Library praised the acquired material as "unique evidence of intellectual life in the United States in the second half of the 20th Century." How does this quotation relate to poetry and poetics, the subjects of these blog entries?  After all, Jose Garcia Villa, in my recently published book "Poetry is," states that: "The arts do not require intellect but simply intelligence.  To be intelligent is to proceed rightly by innate perception, by intuitive sense." Thus, to write poetry (i.e., poems), say when a poet chooses a particular combination of words because they make a better poetic effect, that makes poetic sense but he is not thinking in the true sense of the term. On the
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"Triple Elvis" (the poem)

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The New York Times reported on November 28, 2014 that “fine art is now firmly planted alongside equities, bonds, commodities and real estate as an asset class.”  Mentioned as an example of fine art was the sale for nearly $82 million at Christie’s auction of Andy Warhol’s silk-screen print “Triple Elvis (Ferus Type), an image taken from a Hollywood studio publicity shot showing Elvis Presley with a gun.”   One may wonder what about producing a silk-screen print of a Hollywood poster qualified Warhol as a maker of “fine art,” no matter what its subject matter.  Where is the creative expression which is characteristic of all makers of fine art, whatever their medium?    The answer is purportedly found in the rationalization of David Galenson, an economics professor at U. of Chicago.  The Times quoted Galenson as saying:  “Aesthetics have nothing to do with it. . . .  It’s really incredibly
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Death of a "Formalist"

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Today's NY Times has an obituary on Daryl Hine, characterizing him as "an admired poet who adhered to classical themes, complicated formal structures and intricate rhyming patterns to explore themes of philosophy, history and his own sexuality."  The article explains that Hine "wrote more than a dozen books of poetry, using traditional forms like the sestina."  It continues to say that:  "His work . . . often put him out of step with the times, which were more apt to celebrate the raw, free-form work of poets like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso," and that "Louis Dudek, a literary critic who focused on modern poetry, once described Mr. Hine's poetry as 'a series of extremely recherché, abstract, contrived word forms, containing oblique and ambiguous philosophical essays and meditations.'" 

Most poets and critics today tend to think of poetry as occupying two poles of a spectrum, either the "formalist" style of Hine or the "free verse" style of Ginsberg.  An assumption is made that "modern poetry" embraces the latter style.  People who hold this view are misguided.  The two poles of the spectrum are between "formalists" and the "modern poetry" style of José Garcia Villa.  Free verse is disqualified because, contrary to popular belief for the past half century, it is not poetry, not even verse, and most important is not art.


 

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Having already violated this injunction by C. David Heymann, the biographer who wrote books about Ezra Pound, James Russell, Amy Lowell and Robert Lowell, and whose obituary appears in today’s New York Times, what’s a fellow to do? Heymann’s solution, it would appear, was to turn to biographies of the rich and famous, much more remunerative to be sure. Does this have any echoes in what has happened to the publishing of poetry and poetics?  As one well-known publisher told me, my book “is a very hard book for us to publish.”  My response was:  “Tell me something I don't know!"   Well-meaning persons have advised me to “Follow the money.”  Being retired and not worried about supporting myself for my remaining years, and frankly disgusted about the prices being paid for “great icons” of pop art that have been selling at record prices in recent days at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and
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The obituary of Hilton Kramer, the Art Critic, in today's New York Times reminded me of an article he wrote in the New Criterion in February 1993 under the title "Poetry & the silencing of art." That article is accessible on the web at the following site: http://www.newcriterion.com/articleprint.cfm/Poetry---the-silencing-of-art-4691 It should be read by everyone interested in rejuvenating poetry as a high art in America. Among other things, it summarizes views expressed by Dana Gioia on the state of American poetry, agrees with those views to the extent that they note the demise of poetry as art in America, comments on some of Gioia's other views set forth in his book "Can Poetry Matter?", and concludes with the following observation: "In Mr. Gioia's discussion of these problems, something very important has been left out - the subject of popular culture. For as the silencing of high art proceeds at a rapid pace in our society, what is taking its place on a scale never seen before is the noise of the most noxious and degraded varieties of pop culture. High culture cannot compete with its lethal effects on the minds and bodies of the young - and not only the young, of course - and neither can serious education, not as it is now conducted, anyway. And as long as the juggernaut of pop culture continues to swamp everything in its path, not only will poetry remain confined "to the private world that is the poet's mind" but so will all of high art - whatever remains of it - be confined to the private world of its subculture. And what was lost? No one can judge will be a line applicable to many things we now cherish. Can Poetry Matter? is an important book, but it does not yet have an answer to the question posed in its title."

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WAS THERE EVER WHEN?

 

Was there ever when

We were less aware

of where high art has been?

And do we even care?

 

Ever climb a stair

To find it leads nowhere

Because you had forgotten

The race is to the bottom?

 

Welcome to Lost and Found

I provide a service

One that makes academia

Exceedingly nervous.

 

Whatever happened to the art of poetry in the United States? It is not declining; it is dead. Been dead for fifty years or so.

The evidences of its death are everywhere. Ever notice that the Sunday Book Review of The New York Times in its contents page has no independent category for poetry? When, on rare occasions, a book of poetry or poetics is reviewed, the category for FICTION is changed to "FICTION AND POETRY." Makes poetry merely an afterthought, doesn't it? And anyone who knows anything about modern poetry as art knows that poetry is more allied with NONFICTION than FICTION, as poems are not prose, no longer tell a story, and only subconsciously communicate a meaning, if at all.

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