Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More on Christian Wiman

This won't be my last entry on his collection of essays, but seeing as I'm in a bad mood today (siding repair man came at 7:30 to hammer away), I need to be absorbed by wit and humor and charm. Wiman has plenty. He's smarter than me, too, or just a good editor.

"The soothing sort of verse that fills up our major magazines, with its formal complacency and instant epiphanies (add an anecdote and stir), has nothing to do with serious art."

"If Lowell has influenced poets of my generation, it is only in the most casual, least enduring ways--these endless, flaccid 'fourteen-liners,' for example." [guess I'll stop doing THAT now]

"In contemporary poetry you feel conspicuously one of two things: either the poet is very self-conscious about his means of expression and never lets you forget that, or there's a kind of implicit, self-congratulatory pleasure at not worrying much about the means of expression. In the first instance, you get work that's endlessly coiled into itself, too reflexive to say anything clear about the world. I'm a poem! it screams at you in every line. In the second, you get work that's too slack to say anything memorable about the world. You feel the poet wrote it while eating breakfast; you can almost hear him chewing."

Now, the nerdy stuff for lit buffs, where Wiman gives himself just a few lines to describe the styles of influential poets:

Plath: Those sounds coming from the dog underneath our porch that someone had fed meat and shattered glass. All afternoon into the evening, way back in the deep unreachable shadows. Then silence.

Dickinson: Tweezered immensities.

Rilke: Art whispering into Oblivion's ear, I am so beautiful, I am so beautiful....

Ashbery: The infinite absence between two mirrors.

Browning: A man who insists on petting a dog in the opposite direction that the dog's fur lies.

Milton: One of those people for whom it's impossible to imagine a childhood, or possible only to imagine a very odd one in which even his mother and father called him "Milton."

Hardy: A man who has been surprised by life so often that he will not, by god, be surprised by it in art.

Pound: An architect who, in the middle of the construction of his ideal design, falls in love with the scaffolding, decides this is what he wanted, this is what he'll keep.

Stevens: "I had an assignation with the spirit of man but I was weak and in love with the spirit of language and kept him waiting." (Carl Rakoski)

Niedecker: A sandpiper, that quick acuity, but in slow motion.

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