Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back from Nashville. What a conference! A lot of sessions to attend. Electronic medical records are really coming of age, and I come away much more optimistic about our organization and the upgrades we are facing. Great fun over dinner and drinks with colleagues. The Gaylord Opryland is like a huge snowglobe or terrarium. Completely enclosed by glass ceilings, it seemed to have its own weather.

A group of us had a terrific jaunt to Broadway one night, to have dinner and check out the live bands play at the clubs downtown, the night before the CMA's. We stayed to listen to a set by Broadband, an all-women group, sort of like the Dixie Chicks, but without the glamour: more rough-edged and real.

To top things off (in a way) NextGen had Huey Lewis and KC & the Sunshine band give a concert at the hotel ballroom the last night (Hmmm . . .so this is where all that money we pay for our EMR is going?). A lot of the people who lived (and partied) through the 70's and 80's were having a gas, dancing around and reliving (relieving) their heyday in a big way. But it was not quite my cup of tea. Ah well.

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Reading around online this afternoon I found a link to this interesting Camile Paglia essay from Arion, about the writing of her anthology of close readings, Break, Blow, Burn, and the poets/poems that did not quite make the final cut--and the ones who/that were not even close. It's a fascinating read:

. . . I was puzzled and repelled by the stratospheric elevation in the critical canon given to John Ashbery in recent decades. “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” (1974), Ashbery’s most famous poem, is a florid exercise in strained significance that could and should have been compressed and radically reduced by two-thirds. Can there be any wonder that poetry has lost the cultural status it once enjoyed in the United States when an ingrown, overwrought, and pseudo-philosophical style such as Ashbery’s is so universally praised and promoted?

Given my distaste for Ashbery’s affectations, it would come as no surprise how much I detest the precious grandiloquence of marquee poets like Jorie Graham, who mirrors back to elite academics their own pedantic preoccupations and inflated sense of self. That Graham, with her fey locutions and tedious self-interrogations, is considered a “difficult” or intellectual poet is simply preposterous. Anointing by the Ivy League, of course, may be the kiss of death: Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, another academic star, enjoys an exaggerated reputation for energetically well-crafted but middling poems that strike me as second- or third-hand Yeats. As for the so-called language poets, with their postmodernist game-playing, they are co-conspirators in the murder and marginalization of poetry in the United States.


Whoa.
She's tough. But I have to admit I agree with most of what she has to say.

6 comments:

Pamela said...

I agree with much of what Paglia argues in your excerpt, but I think she's dead wrong about Bishop. (Well, Elizabeth, anyway, and probably Morris Bishop, as well. I haven't read his work well enough to know).

I'd definitely take Bishop, that "second-rate" Heaney guy, and almost all of Ashbery (especially the pre-1980 works) before I'd include Joni Mitchell in an anthology of the century's greatest poets. Joni Mitchell? (You and I know "Horses"/ Patti Smith already has filled the spot reserved for lyricists-not named-Dylan)!

Collin Kelley said...

Huey Lewis and KC? They must be going cheap these days.

Peter said...

Pamela: I agree. Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" was not a great choice at all. Patti Smith's "Birdland" is much more interesting. But still, it's pop music. Not poetry.

Collin: Yes. Very cheap, I guess. Though I hear Huey was donating all his proceeds to a charity.

Joannie said...

Okay, I'll come clean. I count Joni Mitchell among my earliest (high school) poetry influences. Maybe that explains a lot.

But I do feel a little better about my difficulties with Ashbery, Graham, and the language poets (although I suspect that I find them difficult for entirely different reasons).

Now I want to read the entire essay. Thanks for posting the excerpt.

Jilly said...

I hate the Opryland hotel haha.

Hope you had fun in Nashville.

Peter said...

It was fun Jiilly. Wish I had time to break away and meet you!
Peter