Thursday, August 20, 2009

how would someone feel


here's a quote from Jonathan Mayhew's blog, "Bemsha Swing", date 09-28-2007:

Georg Trakl, César Vallejo, and Juan Ramón Jiménez were not "surrealists." I'm going off the "deep" end next time I see a quote about how James Wright translated "surrealist poets" like these! Whether Lorca was a "surrealist' is at least open to debate. It kind of depends on what your definition of 'Lorca" is. The "American Lorca" was a surrealist. The friend of Dalí, the Lorca of the drawings, might have been. The author of Diván del Tamarit was not.

Vallejo wrote an autopsy of surrealism, explaining its failings. Trakl killed himself 10 years before the surrealist manifesto. How would someone feel if encountering a list of "Language poets like Ron Silliman, Robert Hass, Frank O'Hara, and Bill Knott"? Would it matter that some died before language poetry existed, some hated it? The logic seems to be (1) Robert Bly and James Wright translated Trakl and Vallejo. (2) Robert Bly liked surrealism around this time. (3) Therefore these poets are surrealists.



—Mayhew's question in which my name appears made another question occur to me:

How would I feel if someone called me an "avant-garde" poet, which Robert Pinsky did indeed call me in his Wash Post column . . . ?

I would feel, and I did feel, hurt and insulted, (and I know Pinsky meant it to be an insult)

since I do not consider myself an avantgarde poet, I have never wanted to be an avantgarde poet, and in fact I dislike almost all avantgarde poetry:—

which means that if Pinsky is right in his aspersion, then I have failed in my ambitions and aspirations as a poet . . .

—Well, that is to say, I mean, I know I've failed: I am a failed poet, period; but if his pejorative label should somehow be correct, it would mean that I've failed even more, even worser than I think . . .