Monday, October 21, 2013

mary karr's ass


Often, perhaps, when an artist grows older, he/she must refute the artists they admired in their youth—

they are embarrassed by that former enthusiasm, ashamed at having ever been so gauche in judgment—

these once-adulated elders must be symbolically slain/cast down/humiliated—

it helps of course if the idol was in fact false in the first place, a sham, a golden calf with hooves of clay, a boyband whose vocals/guitars were computer spawned—

it's even easier if that penny icon was a flash in the pan now universally despised or ignored, a pariah humbled and debased,

like a writer who may have enjoyed some minor notice in his youth but who now grown old and forgotten must vanity-publish his work,

or even the yecchiest echelon of all, that dantean depth wherein wanders lost that most abject of detritrals, the "blog poet" . . .

For an example of what I mean here, consider the strange piece which appeared in the Washington Post (10/12/08), the "Poets Corner" column, by Mary Karr—

she begins with a familiar rhetorical ploy: a sheepish admission of youthful naivete:

"Back in high school, I fell in love with Bill Knott's visionary poems . . . "

After this disingenuous gushygoo she quickly proceeds to suggest that her teenself was the victim of a "hoax" perpetrated by Knott . . . yes,

her young-innocent delusional ardour for his poetry was caused not by its intrinsic merits,

no, she was guiled and traduced by the specious notoriety his spurious frauds had cloud-hued him with:

Knott, she reveals, "became a cult figure . . . through a suicide hoax in 1966."

In fact, Karr notes, prior to this fake self-offing, this felo-de-flummery,

Knott had been "collecting rejection slips for years."

And, her implication is clear,

he would have gone on collecting rejection slips forever if

he hadn't managed to dupe and bamboozle editors with his counterfeit ruses and flimflam impostures—

the deceitful trickery of which continues to this day, she insinuates by asserting that "Knott . . . still produces . . . experimental verse,"

"experimental" being a code-word to implicate, indict his persistent incriminating caprices and morally-shoddy eccentricities—

("Experimental" meaning oddball, abnormal: not like the regular Establishment poets Karr usually praised in this [now-defunct] weekly column:

He's not like us, Karr is assuring her AmeriPo-Biz cohorts, he's an anomaly, he can be marginalized and scorned with no risk—

in such circles, "experimental" is an insult, and Karr is indicating with this pejorative

that Knott should be viewed as anathema by the mainstream of American Poetry—)

He's a crank, Karr says, quote: "He's an iconoclast."  You can't take him seriously.

In this she agrees with the eminent critic Christopher Ricks,

who in The Massachusetts Review dismissed Knott as "a malignant clown."

"Futilely" is the word Karr uses to describe Knott's vain attempts to write—

he is "futilely" trying to be a poet, as she sees it. . . .

Her final summation seems apropos:

"pathological paranoia"

is her grown-up-now diagnosis of this mentally-ill reprobate,

her older-and-wiser verdict on

his worthless life and work.

Karr's thinly-disguised attack on Knott is really a kind of exorcism, a ritual to expel this shadow from her sinful youth—

Yes, she confesses to her confreres in the USAPO elite,

I was guilty of letting myself be hoaxed
—and note that she uses the word "hoax" twice in her brief article,

reiterating it for emphasis, to remind her readers in case they missed it the first time—

yes, she coyly admits, I was hoaxed by the charlatan Knott,

but mea culpa, look, I here repent that adolescent foolishness,

lo, I cast the demon out!

Knott is the dumb donkey Karr rode into Poetryville on, back in her uneducated raw youth,

the ass she must now augeanize from her stable,

the sacrificial mule she must thrice deny before the Academy of American Poets crows and crowns her.

I apologize for writing the diatribe above in the third person—

I was so hurt and humiliated by this article that I could only respond by distancing it from the first-person—
I think the greatest sign of Karr's contempt for me is something she didn't say:

the fact that she didn't mention even in passing my blog, whereon for the past several years

I have been posting my entire catalog of poetry for free open access:

that, to me, hurt worse than any of her subtle insults.

But, to be fair, given the space restrictions of column-writing, given the limited space the Washington Post allotted her, if she had deigned to refer readers to my blog,

then she wouldn't have had room enough left to label me a "hoax" twice over,

to relate the gossipy rumors of my various frauds and deceptions and oh yes let's not forget my "father's suicide" etc.—

And she simply had to include those sordid plums in her screed because,

after all, as she has learned so well from the popularity of her prose memoirs,

sensationalist tittletattle sells.


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