On the Craft, II

Another gem from Michael Lista:

In “The Photo Double”, [David] Seymour writes that acting hurt “has less to do with feeling pain/ than understanding timing.” What makes For Display Purposes Only such a powerful work of art is how deeply it believes that. Poetry is performance; art is artifice. And it’s essentially entertainment. When it works, it’s not because its Romantic soul spelunking was to a record depth, or because its confessionalist moral laundering was the most Tide Fresh. It’s because its maker believes enough in what’s real to wander off and master what’s artificial. Or put another way: the true poet isn’t someone who’s found his voice, but someone who’s lost it.

Yup. Art is just entertainment of the highest order.

Michael Lista, On Poetry: For Display Purposes Only, by David Seymour (National Post )


Ange Mlinko, Safer Than Ambien: Reconsidering Elizabeth Bishop (Poetry):

When I despise poets, it’s usually because they’ve thrust their secrets on me in a ritualized self-shaming that is not cathartic for me or morally absolving for them. Bishop never commits that 
error. When I disdain poems, it’s often because they have “a palpable 
design on us,” as Keats put it. Bishop’s never do. But sometimes I will have my expectations overturned by a poem that spills its guts in a new and interesting way, or a poem that ambushes me with an ultimatum which proves too ravishing to deny. Astonish me, the old Modernists used to say. I can be won over by a stylish poem that is full of life. Bishop’s are full of — observations.

I ultimately disagree with Mlinko. Bishop has written at least two truly great poems (First Death in Nova Scotia and The Armadillo), and almost all of her poems contain great moments. I’m not too crazy about her formal work (there’s a great poem hidden in One Art), but Bishop’s powers of imagination can’t be denied.


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