Saturday, October 4, 2008

The New Yorker and Faux-Snarkery

The New Yorker and Faux-Snarkery

“I was reminded, reading your poems—the farm poems, particularly—of a letter by Elizabeth Bishop, in which she says, “What one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.” In the poems about farm life, you describe so perfectly how healing the country was for you, how your receptivity was sharpened, and how assuaging and nourishing it all was.”—Alice Quinn, “The Poet in the Fitting Room, The New Yorker

Assuaging and nourishing? Excuse me while I barf.

If one really believes what Bishop is saying, i.e. self-forgetfulness—then “assuaging” and “nourishing” that self goes out the window.

Assuage and nourish what? The very thing that Bishop says to get rid of? The very thing that hogs up all the attention? The Ego as Black Hole?

How can a poet create like Bishop says, while doing just the opposite of practicing “perfectly useless attention?”

Quinn asks Reece how his “receptivity was sharpened”—when sharpening the Edge is just the opposite of “perfectly useless” attention?

What’s worse? Reece’s smarmy poetry claiming to be Bishopesque—or Alice Quinn’s faux-snarkery claiming to critique Reece while queering Bishop’s poetics doing it?

For a so-called critc-interviewer to throw out a Bishop “quote” and schmooze with a poet about just the opposite thing Bishop’s saying—claiming the poet is right-on. Well, in my humble opinion, that’s faux-snarkery at its worse.

It’s cheap, second-rate, pseudo-snarkery not worth warm spit. If you’re going to be snarky about Reece’s poetry, why not just say it’s anti-Bishop bullshit?

I don’t know who’s worse—Quinn or Reece? Reece tells this tear-jerker story about reciting Bishop’s “One Art” to his nurse, Martha. The one about “The art of losing isn’t hard to master . . .” She weeps, he weeps, they praise God.

But what about the “art of losing” it? It’s so easy to master, isn’t it? Bishop talks about losing a watch, her lovers, even a city or two. So what’s the big deal? If it’s so easy why does Quinn and Reese go on and on about how hard it is?

The only thing hard is to do—is being authentically snarky.

Being authentically snarky with yourself and the world. Being able to critique yourself and others—without any whining, kvetching, bullshitting or hypcrocasy.

Poetry takes some serious snarkery—real snarkery not faux-snarkery.

To snark or not to snark—that’s always been the question. For a poet like Reese to use poetry to continue the self-fablulation of faux-snarkery is to make a Joke out of poetry.

Using poetry to buttress the bullshit—instead of getting rid of it—aye there’s the rub. Or rather—aye there’s the wipe. Now flush it down the toilet, my dear.

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