illbient samples

Ron Silliman's blog pointed me to a review by William Logan of some recent poetry books. I make no comment on the books, as I've not read them, nor do I have a set against the poets reviewed - indeed, I have enjoyed some of their specific works - but I will pluck some comments as they mirror a little some of my general unease about current poetry I find around me - and suit a winter sheen of 'illbience'.

The comments also made me larf, with their smoothly-turned 'grumpy old man' stuff, Logan being a conservative critic (well, that's what he seems like to me). As well as rolling out the same-old same-old against soft targets (and some of the below are such), savvy conservatives can neatly pick off the mild middle ground where it lives - and, of course, mess with our own personal likes.

On bad days, I think one could get in first with the 'bad review' of one's own work by doing a properly 'bad review' of the actual work, not the poet or the blurb or the expectation. Anyway, these are all deliberately out-of-context and mixed about, and you can place them against whomever or whatever - me 'n you and a dog named boo, even:

"... wide-eyed, well-meaning poems ... the embodiment of 1970s narcissism—conversational and intimate, chatty at times, they burnished old hurts into the sentimental routines of confession. ... — the poems are now dusted with New Age spirituality (often Buddhism lite), the once easy phrases kinked, the imagery tortured or simply malformed"

"... poems have become parlor games of extraordinary tedium."

"The language is over-earnest, over-egged, the poems collapsing on occasion into lathers of guff."

"assumes that the reader will find her life endlessly fascinating while she kneads her tidy domestic moments into parables (and ties them with the ribbon of homily in the boudoir of second thoughts on the avenue of regret)."

"... the only good thing about these poems are their titles"

"The claustrophobic form ... — the nervous, shivery lines; the agitated sentences — whispers what the poems sometimes shout, that we are lonely, atomized beings with little to offer each other, or nothing at all. ... every beautiful moment makes her think of death, as thought of her terrible return to the marriage bed no doubt tormented Persephone, the months she was allowed to walk the earth. The unnerving quality of these poems lies less in what the myth offers the poet than in what she offers the myth."

"The verse in this new book is sloppy and casual, the poet running through his routines with great skill—but they are routines, without the routine magic he once brought"

"Everywhere you turn you find the nest of self-regard fouled by the bandage of metaphor in the forest of piety"


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