Sucks to be a Mushroom: in which we read David Orr’s essay on poetic greatness until our hangover goes away
In this weekend’s NYT books section, David Orr weighs in on the sweat-to-brow question of whether Poetic Greatness is suffering–or has already suffered–its Peak Oil moment.
In October, John Ashbery became the first poet to have an edition of his works released by the Library of America in his own lifetime. That honor says a number of things about the state of contemporary poetry — some good, some not so good — but perhaps the most important and disturbing question it raises is this: What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.
Yikes. I keep wanting to be annoyed with this essay, and when Orr is throwing out gems like “Poetry has justified itself historically by asserting that no matter how small its audience or dotty its practitioners, it remains the place one goes for the highest of High Art[,]” it’s really hard not to just smack myself in the forehead, except my head already hurts for some seriously non-poetry-related reasons, so I’m going to save all self-flagellation for the repentance session I have scheduled for later this afternoon.