Saturday, June 6, 2009



from page 8 of the New York Review of Books, March 29, 2007,

Julian Barnes recounts:

A British Euro-joke tells of a meeting of officials from various countries who listen to a British proposal, nodding sagely at its numerous benefits; the French delegate stays silent until the end, then taps his pencil and remarks, "I can see that it will work in practice. But will it work in theory?"

Substitute "SOQ poetry" for "British proposal," and "SON poet" for "French delegate" and the joke still works, I think.

But while the School-of-Quietude poet does value Practice, and the School-of-Noisiness poet valorizes Theory, this is (like the British/French characterization) overall a generalization, and can't apply to every individual case—

For example, thinking of jokes, humor: surely the SOQ Bidart and the SON Palmer are clones in their droneful solemnity, their drastic seriousness, their complete omission of the comic muse?

(Palmer of course inserts a double space inbetween his lines so his poems can kill twice as many trees as the normal poem (Lebensraum, Lebensraum, his cramped lines cry); and Bidart: sometimes he too spreads his lines sparsely and straggledy-taggledy down the page to blitzkrieg the margins of poetry's Maginot line . . . )

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