2009年11月21日 星期六

November 19th, 2003.

Dinner at Kang's again.

Are we like those bored couples,
you feel sorry for in restaurants?
Are we the dining dead?

"I can't stand the idea of us being a couple people think that about."







2009年11月17日 星期二

and now for some more Mary Karr

From the essay Against Decoration


That the poetry of the first half of this century often was too difficult... is a truism that it would be absurd to deny. How our poetry got this way--how romanticism was purified and exaggerated and "corrected" into modernism... how poet and public stared at each other with righteous indignation, till the poet said, "Since you won't read me, I'll make sure you can't--is one of the most complicated and interesting of stories.


My opinion of ornament became cemented a few years back when I sat through a partial reading of Merill's epic Changing Light at Sandover. At the crowded reception after, I stood elbow to elbow with some friends--poets and critics whose opinions I respect and who were jubilant about the performance. I asked each in turn what he or she liked in the reading, which parts were moving, because I assumed that I had missed something. But their faces remained empty. No one seemed to remember much. Maybe my question seemed too bone-headed to warrant an answer, but no one seized upon an instant or quoted a line to support the consensus that the reading was a smash. These friends in the wee hours quote Hopkins by the yard, or rehash the details of Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poetry. Yet ten minutes after an allegedly brilliant reading, the poems had merely washed after audience, leaving no traces except for some vague murmurings.

I drove home feeling awful, thinking that something terrible had happened to poetry, that a trick had been played on readers, and small wonder that the number of readers continued to decline. Somehow, the poetry that made our pulses race, that could flood us with conviction and alter our lives, had been replaced by fancy decoration, which can only leave us nodding smugly to one another, as if privy to some inside joke.


In my view, emotion in a reader derives from reception of a clear rendering of primal human experiences: fear of death, desire, loss of love, celebration of being. To spark emotion, a poet must strive to attain what Aristotle called simple clarity. The world that the reader apprehends through his or her senses must be clearly painted, even if that world is wholly imaginary, as, say, in much of the work of Wallace Stevens.

2009年11月16日 星期一

Mary Karr

From wikipedia:

Karr thinks of herself first and foremost as a poet. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry in 2005 and has won Pushcart prizes for both her poetry and her essays. Karr has published four volumes of poetry: Abacus (Wesleyan University Press, CT, 1987, in its New Poets series), The Devil's Tour (New Directions NY, 1993, an original TPB), Viper Rum (New Directions NY, 1998, an original TPB), and her new volume Sinners Welcome (HarperCollins, NY 2006). Her poems have appeared in major literary magazines such as Poetry, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.

She is a controversial figure in the American poetry "establishment," thanks to her Pushcart-award winning essay, "Against Decoration," which was originally published in the quarterly review Parnassus (1991) and later reprinted in Viper Rum. In this essay Karr took a stand in favor of content over poetic style. She argued emotions need to be directly expressed, and clarity should be a watch-word: characters are too obscure, the presented physical world is often "foggy" (that is imprecise), references are "showy" (both non-germane and overused), metaphors over-shadow expected meaning, and techniques of language (polysyllables, archaic words, intricate syntax, "yards of adjectives") only "slow a reader"'s understanding. Karr directly criticized well-known, well-connected, and award-winning poets such as James Merrill, Amy Clampitt, Vijay Seshadri, and Rosanna Warren (daughter of Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Penn Warren). Karr favors controlled elegance to create transcendent poetic meaning out of not-quite-ordinary moments, presenting James Merrill's "Charles on Fire" as a successful example.

While some ornamentations Karr rails against are due to shifting taste, she believes much is due to the revolt against formalism which substituted sheer ornamentation for the discipline of meter. Karr notes Randall Jarrell said much the same thing, albeit more decorously, nearly fifty years ago. Her essay is meant to provide the technical detail to Jarrell's argument. As a result of this essay Karr earned a reputation for being both courageous and combative, a matured version of the BB-gun toting little hellion limned in The Liars' Club.