Monday, May 01, 2006
Anthony Tomassini, as longtime readers know, is UD’s music critic of choice. For poetry, it’s William Logan, who alone has been able to put into words for her just why the Dread Kooser -- our poet laureate -- is so dread.
And here’s Logan again, in the NYTimes book review section, summing up with pith and vigor the obese Oxford Book of American Poetry:
[W]here Oxford's first anthology of American verse could have been carried around in a small handbag, the new one has to be wheeled around in a shopping cart. This bloated, earnest, largely mediocre new Oxford takes up a lot of space on the shelf without providing a clear view of our moment. That chance won't come again for another generation.
But just as fun as Logan’s review is the letter from the book's insulted editor that showed up in last Sunday’s book review. Here’s the editor’s explanation for Logan’s negative review:
[N]one of the editors have picked a poem by Logan since the series began in 1988. This means that his work was not considered good enough by John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Jorie Graham, Mark Strand, Charles Simic, Louise Glück, A. R. Ammons, Richard Howard, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, John Hollander, Robert Bly, Rita Dove, Robert Hass, Robert Creeley, Yusef Komunyakaa, Lyn Hejinian, Paul Muldoon and Billy Collins.
As for [the editor’s] cranky remark about my absence from "Best American Poetry," why, I hadn't really noticed.
And it is funny, you know, what the explanation tells you about the editor. It’s all about inclusion, isn’t it? That’s why the book’s a bohemoth. No rigorous aesthetic standards apply; rather, the idea is to make a big expensive book and tell people that because it’s so big, as the editor writes, it “demonstrates the vitality and abundance of American poetry and does so in a way that will enlarge poetry's readership.”
That’s like Brown University pointing to its Carnival Cruise Line buffet of courses and saying ain’t this vitality and abundance great!