Posts Tagged ‘alexander pope’

The Kmart Belles Lettres Conference Summation

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Photo 194

As many are already absolutely aware, beginning on March 6 and ending on March 9 there was a literary conference — sponsored by Bambi Muse and Fox News — of sparkly specialness. That literary conference — the Kmart Belles Lettres Conference — was clamorous, and clamor commands a summary. So here is a summary!

March 6 (Day 1):

Most of the attendees were in a foul mood for the first day. Edie Sedgwick, for one, lost her fur in a cab on the night before and refused to mingle with anyone, even the sharp society poet Edith Sitwell. Sitwell tried to offer Edie a coup of tea, but Edie insisted that no one speak to her about anything unless it was directly related to the recovery of her fur coat.

So, instead Sitwell started a conversation with none other than Baby Adolf, the first Bambi Muse baby. Here’s a snippet of their chat:

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Critics on Criticism: Dryden and Pope on the Evils of Hating, Loving Parts

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Apparently something about the Restoration, after all the Charleses and Jameses and Cromwells and who is Catholic and who is Anglican or Puritan, got poets to thinking about the whole versus the part, w/r/t criticism. Thus John Dryden, who was politically moderate but eventually found he had some inclinations toward Rome, on critics who “think this or that expression in Homer, Virgil, Tasso, or Milton’s Paradise to be far too strained”:

Tis true there are limits to be set betwixt the boldness and rashness of a poet; but he must understand those limits who pretends to judge as well as he who undertakes to write: and he who has no liking to the whole ought, in reason, to be excluded from censuring of the parts. (from “The Author’s Apology for Heroic Poetry and Heroic License,” 1677)

This seems a good rule. I perhaps unfashionably quite enjoy reading good criticism for its own sake, and I believe a person can display a purely critical genius, though their work ought to follow Wilde’s dictum of being a creative act in its own right. I think, here, that Dryden makes a key distinction. He is taking to task critics who profess no taste for any muscular poetry, for the “the hardest metaphors and the strongest hyperboles,” and who then critique individual works of heroic verse that by definition display that muscularity, hardness, and strength.

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A. Pope, Tao Lin, and HTML Giant walk into a bar…

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This past week, there have been several blogs (plus the mention in the New Yorker) about Tao Lin and the reviews lodged for and against him. To be fair, I haven’t read much of Tao’s work, but I am entrenched in the pure spectacle of “Tao Lin.” Mostly out of boredom but partly because I can’t get away from it, even if I wanted to.

But consider this, in his Author’s Preface, Alexander Pope argues, “Poetry and criticism [are] by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.” So I’m back to the question of boredom. Why do we care who says what about Tao? And here, just look back at the comment streams about Tao. People seem to do more than simply “care.” They’re invested! I barely have time to care about the reviews written about my friends, much less any other contemporary. I have no desire to be an idle man writing in my closet, nor an idle man reading there.

It doesn’t matter much to me whether or not Tao (or any other writer, for that matter) cultivates this particular brand of hype. My concern has to do with the unabashed responses that indicate how very right Pope is. Even this post reinforces Pope’s argument that I’m simply an idle man—or woman in this case—reading in a closet.

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