Longreads 2012: Michael Lista and David Biespiel

Please allow me to introduce (or at least showcase) two men of taste if not wealth: Michael Lista and David Biespiel.

Both poets, Lista and Biespiel are also poetry critics and commentators and I look forward to their insights in the years to come.

In his National Post review of The Open Door, edited by Don Share and Christian Wiman, Lista takes on Modernism (and much, much more) and delivers one of the most lucid critiques of current American poetry I’ve read in a long time:

Almost anyone can write poetry, and almost no one can write poems. Wiman writes: “We have embalmed poems in sociology, have created a kind of machine-speak critical jargon that any sane person would simply laugh at. We have exalted poets whose verbal and associative skills are immense but who have, finally, not very much to say.”

Boom. There it is.

Biespiel has much the same kind of critical eye, and in his Why I’m Quitting Ezra Pound (The Rumpus), he gets right to it:

The most honest thing we could do today is reevaluate Pound’s poems in the spirit of a new century and several developing new poetics. That would be, shall we say, giving Pound the “Pound treatment.” As Pound called for reassessing contemporary poetry’s relationship to the Augustans and the Victorians, we ought to reevaluate our relationship to the Modernists. Not deny their existence as in the Collinsesque, Kooseresque fashion, but repudiate their chilly me-ism and vortexes.

Here’s one place I’m staking out: I’m done with giving lip service to writing as geometric patterning. What Pound called ‘vorticism’ has run its literary course. It’s tinny-eared, avant-traditional and, when handled by most poets, it’s a form of infantile rote transcription. Like a key made from a copy of a key, it never locks or unlocks quite like the original. The poetry of abstraction, the poetry of the disassembled, the poetry of mass, space, and volume has become not just unmemorable but hidebound. There. So long. I’ll remember the good times. We can only be friends now.

Boom. There it is.


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