Wednesday, September 21, 2011

AnzFray IghtWray Part Infinity + 1

See? He can smile.

AnzFray IghtWray again on the MFA and contemporary poetry in general. This time from the Huff Post blog of IsAnay IvaniShay. IghtWray has said similar things for some time now on the comments boxes of blogs and on his facebook page.

IvaniShay says of the email interview: “Franz is always compassionate, generous, and kind and friendly in unexpected ways--and I hope the following exchange conveys a little of his warm personality.”

This might or might not be true, I don’t know. But if it is true, no, this exchange does not convey it.

I’m not even sure I should pass this along, it’s such a useless issue, but these comments about MFA programs and contemporary poetry continue to pop up around the block. Is there anything left of value to say about this? Was there ever? I doubt it. Mostly I just find the whoel thing depressing.  (But I'm already depressed, as I just read that R.E.M. has broken up. )

Look, the king is on fire!

Here’s the link to the complete interview:

Anis: Often, in these poems, you proceed by negation of previously stated propositions. The sum of negations in an individual piece might add up, however, to a vast affirmation. What do you think of this way of describing the pieces in Kindertotenwald?

Franz: I can hardly imagine a better way to say this than you just have in your question, I can only say how wonderful it is to have such a perceptive reader, what my father used to call "an intelligent reader of good will," something we are in very short demand of.

They won't have that kind of thing in most MFA programs, and virtually every poet of note teaches in one, with the exception of me and, in my father's generation, Robert Bly and W.S. Merwin, and virtually every poet who publishes a poem in the United States is the product of these programs, where twelve or fifteen blind children sit around a big table and give each other advice on how to write in the manner that is fashionable at the moment (sometimes they have an illustrious poet with no training whatsoever as a teacher to guide them, sometimes a poet nobody has ever heard of and probably never will, perhaps because...never mind--I hate the subject,

I hate the dumbing down of poetry, the lowering of the bar until, as both revered teachers and friends of mine Donald Justice and Simic commented, it is almost impossible for young people to tell the difference between a good and a bad poem, since for decades it has been fashionable to write in such a manner--obscurity for obscurity's sake is how I would describe it--that makes it virtually impossible to tell whether you have any talent, have anything very interesting to say, etc.

It is a remarkable thing. The greatest poetry in the world, it seems to me, was being written by American poets until--coincidence?--around the late seventies when MFA programs became ubiquitous in American colleges and universities. Richard Howard once quipped darkly at a PEN gathering I happened to be at to receive a writing award, that there are now more writers than readers of poetry in the United States.


At 9/22/2011 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The real culprit is the MFA two year Masters Degree programs in writing poetry, an outrageous stupidity and capitalist scam on the part of universities and colleges as business for profit, and therefore, these days more than ever, in need of a steady stream of non-poets with big ambitions and fantasies, which are encouraged by the MFA programs—do you think anyone ever fails? No, everything runs smoothly on money, and it is an absolute disgrace to and desecration of the spirit of true poetry which is written and discovered in secret by those in need of it."

At 9/23/2011 10:46 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

The next paragraph:

"Writing has become the only major human endeavor in which you can flourish and do very well by being a shockingly mediocre poet. Look at just about any program in the country. And they lower the bar and lower the bar until any idiot can trip over it and be rewarded—a deadly situation for the poets of real talent, as well. Everyone knows how difficult it is to turn down offers of substantial money (it has been for me), and when it becomes habitual, it actually prevents poets poised to become truly great from fulfilling their promise. Their energy is channeled in the wrong way, and they know it."

I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, to offer me substantial money for anything. Oh well.

At 9/23/2011 12:14 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

Ideas are the currency of the poetry world. By that measure, you seem pretty wealthy.

At 9/23/2011 12:44 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Well, you know, as William Carlos Williams could have said: No Things But in Ideas.

At 9/23/2011 3:34 PM, Blogger adams24 said...

Yay for chiasmus!

I do agree with FW that it is in fact possible to establish that some poems do much more "work" than others; for example I get annoyed when someone says they're focused on, for example, the line, when that is only one part of a dynamic: what about the break, the stanza, the sound-structure (assonance, rhyme, consonance, etc), the SYNTAX. For me it is oftern the case that the best poems push-on/at at-least three components. I often feel that a writer has chosen to concentrate on the horizontel or vertical of a poem, but not to deal with both in comparable effort.

D Justice at his best I agree is quite good; Simic: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

At 9/26/2011 6:20 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I've seen FW bandy that argument around a few times, that good poetry ceased to be written until the emergence of MFA programs. Does that include his poetry as well? I would recommend he spend some time investigating the phrase "correlation does not equal causation". He should probably also read more contemporary work, as there is plenty out there for someone so stubborn as him.

I feel like his whole argument reduces to, "Back in my day, there were real poets, like my father, and his friends."


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