Ana Maria Caballero, Zeteo Contributor
[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]
9 September 2013
It’s hard to say how truly controversial an article written on poetry can really get, since the controversy will always be limited to the interested few. So is the case with a column published by the Chicago Tribune titled “Where competency ends, poetry begins.” And subtitled “Here’s a radical idea: a little imagination would go a long way.” It stirred up many in the poetry world, but that is still a small crowd.
In the column, poet Michael Robbins writes of the terrible poetry submissions he would receive as an editor for the Chicago Review. For example:
The bad Bad Verse didn’t bug me; it was often amusing. What depressed me was the incessant influx of what I think of as competent verse — mediocre poetry produced by mediocre poets produced (usually) by MFA programs.
He then gives the reader a few examples of what is bad MFA poetry and what is good poetry. He’s not very nice about it, but he’s probably right.
The thing is, nowhere is his column more effective than in the title and subtitle. Sometimes, it seems, Twitter is the way to go.
Pictured above is the author’s Twitter page. It’s funny because his Twitter name is @aliensvsrobbins, referencing his book of poetry Aliens Vs. Predators. A few of the author’s poems can be found on the Poetry Foundation’s site. They are good, but not as good as the movie.
Since I have a nine-month-old baby, and since my husband has nine aunts and two uncles, people are still coming over to “meet the baby.” This is true of today.
Every time people come over I can’t help but feel like a younger Mrs. Dalloway, from Virginia Woolf’s novel by the same name. There are indeed things that just need attention. Flowers, drinks, food, cleanliness.
Even if one has no glorious dreams of becoming a perfect hostess, getting the house ready is oddly exciting. But at the same time, this excitement, based on the supposedly superficial, is also embarrassing. Mrs Dalloway cried when her young love Peter Walsh called her a perfect hostess:
She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of a perfect hostess, he said.
But, the truth is that Mrs. Dalloway also loved being the perfect hostess. I have to admit, I kind of like it, too.
I am thrilled to have started on my third Isaac Asimov Foundation Novel this week. It’s called The Second Foundation and is actually the fourth out of seven in the series.
I’ve been spacing out the series because they are so good I don’t want them to end. Apart from being interesting, revealing and well-written, they are loads of guilt-free reading fun. Great for pregnant women or for beach vacations where you might be hungover some of the time.
Plus, Alan Watts said the following about science fiction:
…science-fiction is in fact a commentary on the present, since one of the best ways of understanding what goes on today is to extend it into tomorrow.
If this is true, then, within an Asimov context, we will one day find out we are nothing much in a universe impossible to measure. Or, as Robert Kirshner wrote in his book The Extravagant Universe:
We now know where we are. We’re little animals on the surface of one small planet, orbiting a middleweight, middle-aged, mediocre star out in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy, a flattened disk of 100 billion stars.
To me this is extremely helpful information. It helps put things into perspective and makes it inevitable to enjoy the day.
Good things can be found via a well-edited Twitter account. Mine is not one. Per the advice of a few Twiterati friends, I am following back everyone and anyone who will follow me. So, I inevitably follow someone called ‘Bella Swan’ and another called ‘Cupid’s Arrow.’ No offense, but their thing is just not my thing.
Among those I eagerly follow though is Harper’s Magazine, who of course does not follow me back. And through their Twitter account, I read an article they published, written by Tony Hoagland, titled “Twenty Little Poems that Could Save America.”
Once I got that his message is that people should read more poetry (I agree), I confess I stopped reading. Those interested in the topic should read it though; it looks great.
I did read the twenty poems he recommends and one in particular blew my mind. It’s called ‘Topography,’ and it’s by Sharon Olds.
Here’s a passage:
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
A friend who is not really into poetry lent me a book of Jackie Kay’s poems recently. She said it’s one of the few she owns and one of the fewer she even reads. So, I took this as a good sign and have read a few poems from the book, which is called Darling.
They are straight-forward and current, wide-ranged. An excerpt from a particularly simple one is below:
It’s no laughing matter going about the place
all the time being somebody else:
people mistake you; you mistake yourself.
For more writing by Ana Maria Caballero, visit www.thedrugstorenotebook.co.