Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adam Roberts reads my mind

In The Atlantic, Adam Roberts writes "a five-part series about the value of verse in the 21st century." And at the end of Part Five he somehow reads my mind. Or not "reads" so much as "translates."

Part One: "The Righteous Skeptic's Guide to Reading Poetry."
Money quote: "Yeah, poetry sucks! It's confusing, it's pretentious, it's precious, it's frivolous and disconnected and has nothing to do with my life. Right on."

Part Two: "What Makes a Poem Worth Reading?"
Money quote: " If you don't have your graduate degree in comparative literature, wtf is irreducible alterity????"
(A good question. The simplest translation is "hard and weird.")

Part Three: "Flarf: Poetry Meme-Surfs With Kanye West and the LOLCats"
Money quote: "This game of WTF one-upsmanship ... is quickly becoming a recognizable phenomena in everywhere from YouTube to advertising to mainstream news coverage. Sometimes we call it lowest common denominator--but other times, it's something different. Poems, and poets, can learn from it."

Part Four: "Good Poetry Is Like Good Food: How to Find It ... and Savor It"
Money quote: "In the world of literary culture, the small press is probably the closest equivalent to your local farmer's market. (The carrots might look funnier, but, after you're used to it, they taste about five times better.)"

Part Five: "7 Poets I Love"
Money quote: "Delusionally or not, I always feel, when reading, as if quite a bit is at stake. At their core, poems remind me of at least one thing: that I have only one life, and that it's a life with others: other people, other creatures, complicated and interrelated systems of life. Urgency—right—that's what calls me back to read."

And this, the "high stakes" of poetry, is exactly how I feel about poetry. Exactly. Except it's never been something I've been able to articulate. It's as if Roberts reached into the mud of my brain and said, "Here. This is what you've been wanting to say all along."

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