Sunday, August 02, 2009

Matthew Collings Is Fascinating



Matthew Collings is fascinating. What I admire about him isn’t just his honesty, but the fact that it’s not self-aggrandizing in his presentation. What I mean is, take William Logan, for instance. William Logan isn’t afraid of being negative (hardly!). It’s not about negativity. The problem with William Logan is that he tries so hard to be clever with what he’s saying, that he writes over what he’s talking about. It makes his criticism unhelpful, beyond the “he said what!” level.

Matthew Collings seems to me to have his heart in the right place. He’s not a jerk. He’s just ready to say what he sees. It makes his art criticism actually useful, something I wasn’t sure was possible. It would do us all well if the poetry world could have someone like him writing.

Anyway, his columns are linked off the wonderful Shark Forum:

http://www.sharkforum.org/

To read his posts go here.

Here’s a sample:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/nl96xz

Imagine someone writing about poetry who would be able to say, about a poem, "This one as usual didn't mean anything it was doing."

It makes me all quivery.

Addendum (added on Monday, taken from my comment in the comments section in response to vazambam):

To be more specific, Collings’s above critique is to me the most important, valuable critique—and the most difficult one to make and to back up—in art (and in the rest of the arts):

“This one as usual didn’t mean anything it was doing.”

Think of how many times you’ve read a poem and thought that. It’s the foundation of Collings’s criticism. And it’s different than the usual one we hear about poetry, that “something is at stake.” I contend that something is always at stake in a work of art that is available for purchase. But, this idea of “meaning what it is doing” is universal. It’s why Collings has such a textured response to Jeff Koons, who I believe Collings would say, means what he’s doing, but what he’s doing doesn’t mean past a sort of gesture toward the quaintness of meaning. Or something like that.

Such a stance as Collings has, allows him to have a rather open—and at the same time skeptical—response to any art.

It's also the critique that I believe Michael Schiavo was finally making against Matthew Dickman, famously, a few months back. His critique felt persuasive to me, and now that I’ve read the book, I agree with much of it.

This is also Tony Hoagland’s critique of those poets he’s (I think absurdly) gesturing to as the Cult of Dean Young . . .

And, likewise, Collings’s trip to the art gathering (the above link will take you directly there, but here it is again: http://preview.tinyurl.com/nl96xz), by and large, seems to me a valuable critique (though I think some of his targets seem a little sketched in—the gallery directors, for instance), unlike the facile and unhelpful critique Kay Ryan made of AWP a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to write on Kay Ryan. Perhaps I will later in the week. I’m sure it will get a lot of negative response, however, so I’m hesitating. There just seems this general “leave her alone” vibe out there that I think is unfair, as she’s now a very public figure and the things she says about poetry (and her own poetry) seem so facile as to be really damaging to the art.

The art world, because there's so much money involved, has a level of interest and scrutiny (and hyperbole and myth) that poetry is exempt from (exempt isn’t quite the right word, but maybe you know what I mean?). Too bad. To have someone like Matthew Collings talking about poetry would do much to raise the level of conversation.

5 Comments:

At 8/03/2009 1:44 AM, Blogger vazambam said...

John,

Thanks for guiding me to the inimitable Matthew Collings! (See below for my reaction to your comments on his comments)

“This one as usual didn’t mean anything it was doing.”
--Matthew Collings on a painting by Neo Rauch


Yes, but if this were
A poem, couldn't we re-

Work it to make it do
What it was meant to do?

This one as usual
Didn’t mean anything

It was doing.

 
At 8/03/2009 5:50 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

When I put this up yesterday, a lot of things were going on around the house, so I didn't put as much thinking into it as I should have.

I might go on today and add some stuff to it.

What you point to here is one: there's an overt self-consciousness available to language that with depiction has to be guessed at. I don't know Rauch's work, so I can't comment on that, but the critique of Collings is the most important critique - and most difficult to make and back up - in art (and the rest of the arts): “This one as usual didn’t mean anything it was doing.”

It's the critique that Michael Schiavo was making against Matthew Dickman, famously, a few months back. His also felt persuasive to me.

And Collings's trip to the art gathering, by and large, felt like a valuable critique (though I think some of his targets seem a little sketched in - the gallery directors, for instance), unlike the facile and unhelpful critique Kay Ryan made of AWP a few years ago.

The art world, because there's so uch money involved, has a level of interest and scrutiny (and hyperbole and myth) that poetry is exempt from. Too bad. Someone like Matthew Collings in the poetry world would do much to raise the level of conversation.

 
At 8/04/2009 9:13 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Are the critiques Tony Hoagland levels at the apparent Cult of Dean Young equally applicable to... Dean Young?

I like Kay Ryan's poetry a lot, though it all seems to be (so far) poetry of the same kind: we may not want to trust what she says about poetry of other kinds. (We don't trust Byron on Wordsworth either. Not that Ryan, or anyone, is our Byron.)

 
At 8/05/2009 5:19 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Steve,

Sure. I think there's a time where each if us switches to auto-pilot . . . hopefully we realize it, and stop, backup, and start again. It seems that it would be quite difficult to look at something and be able to tell, really tell, if it "means itself" or not, however. I've gotten that feeling many times reading things, but who knows?

I DO get the feeling Kay Ryan "means it" in her poems . . . but what she means, especially when she talks about them, just sounds silly. That whole "lime light" bit in APR made me cringe. After that, I went looking, and found she's really not said one interesting thing about poetry (hers, or poetry in general) anywhere that I could find. That's an odd thing to say about the Poet Laureate. She does mention other types of literature now and then, and she does talk about the importance of libraries, however.

A lot of people (ot all - so I'm not making a blanket statement) like her because she doesn't like people. They seem to find that refreshing and charming. She doesn't "hold back," they say.

That APR interview really just destroyed it for me. I already didn't care much for her work, and found her kind of boring in interviews, mostly just saying over and over her "I'm an outsider" thing, which really doesn't work anymore when you're Poet Laureate. But seriously, that APR interview is just terrible. That combination of interviewer and subject just really, I think, revealed something best left NOT revealed.

 
At 2/04/2011 7:51 AM, Anonymous Viagra Online said...

Well I want to say some things about Matthew Collings, he is so spectacular, I remember one phrase that I read in one of his book "A new popular audience is obsessed by contemporary art"I think that it changed my way to see the art.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home