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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
A funny, terrifying, and ultimately, honestly depressing book.
Ingrid Yang, the protagonist, is an unreliable narrator in her lack of self-awareness, which is part of the comedy and horror. She clearly hates her work as a PhD student working on the oeuvre of a Chinese-American poet that she really doesn’t care for and her bland fiancé is clearly a manipulative douche (Hong’s recent Minor Feelings identified his type, as the sort of middling white guy who has found that racism enables him to find an Asian partner who is much more attractive than he could otherwise ensnare). However, she only barely recognizes any of this.
The novel, which I feel is secretly a horror story, is about her understanding that her whole existence has been gaslit by white men.
It was inspired by a white poet named Michael Derrick Hudson submitting a poem under the name of an Asian woman: Yi-Fen Chou. Chou, in addition to being author’s name, is also the name of the Chinese-American poet in the novel, who turns out to be a white guy who actually indulged is ‘yellowface’ disguise to teach at her university for years.
The whole thing gets worse and worse, with her sinophilic (white) advisor having actually known and conspired in the deception, before turning into a demented Tucker Carlson-esque figure with his own MAGA style movement (DOFO – Defense of Freedom Organization) to protect the feelings of white people.
Chou (the author of this novel) stays true to the story’s movement in that it doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s not unhappy, but essentially, the bad guys win, which feels kind of unhappy.
The publishers also did this thing where you had to flip to book around, relative to the orientation of its cover, in order to read it. I get the metaphor (‘disorientation’) but really could have done without that. The book is good enough on its own.
As a scholarly work, it is more a series of thematic anecdotes than the explication of a sustained thesis, but it shows an admirable amount of archival research into the clues left behind by middle-class households in the 18th and early 19th century. It does a strong job of arguing that 18th century England (and this book is almost exclusively about England) was more literate than perhaps we give it credit for, though, as always, we should remember that the plural of anecdote is not data.
I enjoyed those glimpses into these lives and homes and learning about the way in which people read. Which also leads to the most interesting, if only cursorily examined, idea which she tosses out there in the chapter about novels: the rise of of the novel is directly linked to the decline of poetry as a subject of popular reading.
Much reading, she says, was done aloud. It was done by families in the evening, but also at social gatherings. And publications were designed for that purpose, which means not too long and easy to put down and pick up at a later time. If your neighbor came over and stayed while you read to your family, it wouldn’t do for him to hear just the middle of a dense novel, but something like poetry was perfect.
The novel, by its very nature, encouraged solitary reading and this led to the decline of certain shorter forms that were also strongly linked to oral traditions, i.e., poetry.