Monday, February 15, 2010

Too Many Poets Writing About Poetry?

But isn’t all art about art to some degree? Yesterday, Slate writer Chris Wilson was bitching that a significant number poems published in The New Yorker over the past few two have been about poetry. He counts 316 poems from January 2008  until now and, of those, 84—27 percent of the whole lot—mentioned poetry, including 32 that used the P word explicitly and 15 that mentioned writing in the title.

In Wilson’s estimation, this reveals not only poetry’s apparent narcissism, but reveals that poets, at least those chosen by New Yorker’s estimable poetry editor Paul Muldoon, can’t find anything else to write about.

Two quick thoughts. First, 73% of the poems during this period were about something else. Second, The New Yorker always has a focus on things writerly. And painterly. And designerly. And theaterly. OK, I’m making words up, but my point is that the character of The New Yorker is one in which artistic introspection, or extrospection, is a standard. Yes, I made another word up. But just this year, The New Yorker printed essays on writers (J.D. Salinger), on fashion designers (Kate and Laura Mulleavy), on theater (Second City), on celebrities (Phyllis Diller), on artists (Kiki Smith), singers (Kalefa Sanneh). And this wasn’t even in The Critics section of the magazine, which of course is entirely composed of reviews on art, book, theater, television, etc.

I guess my point is that if Wilson wants to rail against poets being too meta, he picked an easy target. Perhaps I’ll write a poem about it.

P.S., I posted some of this on Wilson's Slate page. I hope he doesn't yell at me.

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