Poetry Is Just Fine, Thank You


Please check out my latest essay, now up at the Decadent Review, “Poetry Is Just Fine, Thank You.”

And check out the whole magazine, they are publishing some great articles and reviews; I would suggest that they are a European equivalent to something like The Los Angeles Review of Books, which is to say a place for intelligent essays and reviews (many of them, more intelligent than mine, I am freely willing to admit).

The Hatred Of Poetry


I do not like the provocative title. I don’t think it is particularly useful. Years ago, before I became a father, I read Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station (I have not read any of his poetry, or rather, any of his poetry collections; I have probably read one of his poems in a magazine), but Hatred is my first time returning to him.

The actual contents are much less provocative than the title and perhaps the publisher picked it, so let’s give him some benefit of the doubt.

He makes some nice points and has a very interesting analysis of Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. He has a great deal to say about implicit bias in poetry criticism that, while not new, is important to say.

But overall, the book is interesting rather than captivating and also meanders a bit, which increases the sense that the title wrote a figurative check that the copy can’t cover.

Defense Of Poesy


The ur-text for all arguments for poetry in the English tradition, Sir Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesy is better than you think. Don’t let that archaic spelling in the title throw you off.

I have heard it described as being very Aristotleian, though I confess I don’t see it myself, except insofar as both are operating under the shadow of Plato and both attempt to answer Plato’s challenges with more practical than theoretical answers.

After first reading it, one of my thoughts was its timelessness. In both a good and bad way. If you made the language blander and more modern, you could slap David Brooks name on it and claim it had been published in The Atlantic under the title “Poetry is dying: I have a plan to save it.”

The plan is reject literary theory and focus on how poetry is of practical value, as a moral and pedagogical tool. Which isn’t wrong, but feels inadequate.

Pomona Valley Review


Please check out issue 16 of the Pomona Valley Review for my poem, Sleepwalking.

Vita Poetica


I noted that a recording of my appeared in a Vita Poetica podcast, my poem, I Pray to You, Saint Peter, Whom No One Loves is also in the autumn 2022 edition, if you’re more of a reader.

In Which I Appear Very Briefly On A Podcast


Which is to say, here.

In The Fog


This short novel was a fun, if predictable read. A group of men in an exclusive club, improbably named The Grills, eating, drinking, and reading newspapers. Three men have connected stories around the murder of a returning aristocrat and a disreputable, larcenous Russian princess.

But any careful reader will quickly see the game: the storytellers are trying to delay a charismatic member of Parliament from going to the House of Commons and delivering a forceful speech in support of a naval bill. The MP is a fan of mysteries and they hope, like Scheherazade, to delay him by dragging out the mystery (when one man finishes, the next announces, a ah! I have more information to illuminate this mystery).

They succeed in delaying him and announce that they have saved the Empire from wasteful spending, only for the MP to say, wait, I gave my speech this morning and the bill passed – I was just going to have dinner with a friend.

The Return Of Fu-Manchu


The racism is so bad, yet the story moves so effortlessly, actively, and thrillingly. Sufficiently exciting that, while you can hardly escape the racism (though it seems laughably transparent; however, as a white man, it is, perhaps, too easy for me to laugh, since I am not the target), you mostly overlook the question of why, if this the genius agent provocateur and herald of a new, global Chinese empire, Fu-Manchu, is so very dangerous, the bold, the brave, the fearless agent of empire (the good kind), Nayland Smith, keeps relying on the narrator, Dr. Petrie (an old college chum, if I remember from the first book)? Surely there is some proto-James Bond type he could rely on?

It’s really a series of short adventures, with Smith and Petrie (don’t say ‘dish!’) constantly running into people with knowledge of stuff happening in China (including a clergyman who was corresponding with someone whose name escapes, but which was remarkably close to Sun-Yat-Sen; I’m not sure if that was deliberate or if the redoubtable author was simply throwing together three letter sounds that combined to sound vaguely like some kind of transliteration from the Chinese). At least the hero and narrator falls in love with someone vaguely Eastern, but more of an orientalist, harem-fantasy than a real person and, despite being from exotic lands, apparently, surprising fair (read: white).

Why do I read books like this? I don’t know, except that I have a great love for these early twentieth century adventures that read so briskly and engagingly. I also feel guilt, though not enough, it seems, at things like the strange race of dog men that are somehow ‘Semitic’ (really, Mr. Sax Rohmer?).

‘Ars Poetica’ By Horace


I read this twice, which was a good thing, because the first time, I just had no time for it. Fan of his poetry, by his Ars Poetica or Art of Poetry simply didn’t speak to me.

Even on second reading, this is not going to be my go to resource, but I liked it much better. Mostly, I enjoyed his wit, which is the best part of his poetry. But it’s no Poetics (the Aristotle one; which I also read recently and am kind of over it; yes, he is arguably the greatest thinker who ever lived, but I am just not seeing anything more for me when I re-read The Poetics).

But, I appreciate his modulated advice to write what you emotionally know, to not let correctness lead your to smooth all the roughness which gives a poem emotional power, and also be sure that you know your audience when you read aloud.

Ion


Nope, not talking about particles or science, but about the minor dialogue by Plato, wherein Socrates interrogates a rhapsode name Ion on his vocation.

Generally, a rhapsode was someone who memorized an epic poem or myth and was an expert on reciting it. Ion specialized in Homer. He says that he also comments on it, but that doesn’t quite track, not in the least because Socrates’ questioning more or less positions as a sort of idiot savant who is able to recite Homer’s epic poems so well because, in the moment, he is divinely inspired. Socrates shows this by arguing that you could only speak well on, to use one Socrates’ example, horsemanship if you were also an expert horseman. He then, rather meanly, shows up Ion as a bit of dolt, which leads Socrates to conclude that Ion is divinely inspired and, by implication, all such performers who reach the highest levels of their profession.