About That Review . . .

26 Apr


Ange Mlinko’s review of the just-released Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology evinces a deep and true concern (dare I say love?) for poetry  — a rare quality and something to be admired and treasured in a reviewer.  But as gifted and astute as Ms. Mlinko is, I believe she missed some important opportunities for contextualization.  Suggesting that beauty is gone from poetry because of flarf, Conceptual, or the march of history, is like saying that gay marriage will ruin traditional marriage.  There’s plenty of “beauty” in poetry, still, and there will always be.  Why can’t poetry, like poets, contain multitudes?  It must.  And what is “beauty” in poetry? Does it reside only with lovely content or word choices?  I’m sure people lamented, thousands of years ago, at the advent of writing, the moment when poetry became less of a mnemonic device and more of its own dynamic.  I wonder if, back then, a lament went up for “the end of memory.”  Probably.  So, poetry has already been “ruined,” as Rimbaud noted in a famous letter to a boyhood friend back in the 19th century.  But that poetry has always never changed is part of that “ruined” beauty.  And can’t there be beauty in the profane?  Comedy has a Muse, after all.  What finally surprises (shocks, really) is that Ms. Mlinko can’t see work that she herself doesn’t completely embrace as part of the long and continuing conversation that is poetry.  Haven’t poets always sought to “correct” in some way what went before?  To paraphrase the poet Nada Gordon: “ . . . nothing static or fixed or preconceived, and probably something rather fearsome and sometimes grotesque.” 

That’s the kind of poetry that can still contain multitudes.



6 Responses to “About That Review . . .”

  1. Danusha Goska April 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    They should have printed your letter.

  2. Kirby Olson April 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

    They may have thought that you were saying that gay marriage is a kind of flarf. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they may have thought you were saying that gay marriage doesn’t have any beauty in it. Or they may have thought you were throwing the homophobia card at a multicultural. It’s hard to get into the mind of the censors.

    • Sharon Mesmer April 26, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      Perhaps. I was just pointing out a tired — and flawed — argument: one thing is ruining another. Also that there’s plenty of beauty in all the varieties of poetry and marriage. Especially if your poetry/marriage is, like Nada said, fearsome.

      • John Guzlowski May 5, 2013 at 1:42 am #

        You had a good letter. Made good points. Hell with them.

      • Sharon Mesmer May 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

        She really just generated more publicity for us. I should’ve sent her a thank you note!


  1. The Nation Versus The Norton Postmodern Anthology Disaster (2nd Edition) | HTMLGIANT - May 22, 2013

    […] scandal surrounding it, and wanted to come to grips with it on my own terms. Sharon Mesmer posted a rebuttal to Ange Mlinko’s review in The Nation on her blog but I had thought it was going to appear in The […]

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