Commentaries - December 2008
Tom Devaney is publishing a short essay on Poe for an exhibit catalogue accompanying a Poe show at the Philadelphia Free Library (the show is up through February '09, titled "Quoth the raven"). Tom has long had a keen interest in Poe, and so I read the proofs of this essay with pleasure. And came upon this footnote:
The phrase the “school of quietude,” which is attributed to Poe, has been used and amplified by Ron Silliman on his blog “Silliman’s Blog.” There is no direct citation where Poe uses the exact phrase, yet the general point is correct. The phrase first appears in Claude Richard’s article “Arrant Bubbles: Poe’s ‘The Angel of the Odd’,” Poe Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 3, October 1969, pp. 46-48. According to Richard: “Poe took an active part in the squabble between the ‘Young Americans,’ who were the proponents of a muscular and popular literature, and the Boston poets, who were attached to a more genteel, more traditional, more quiet conception of literature.”
"The big American poetry sites: Ubu.Web and Penn Sound thank you, thank you, thank you Kenny, Al Filreis, Charles Bernstein--these resources are amazing. The Poetry Foundation comes third after those two, and yah, the PF has much, much more money. But money is only useful if its used. And used with vision. The Harriet blog is a fantastic start. How did Kenny Goldsmith create UBU? More people should be talking to him about that."
And also this:
"Poem Talk has some great episodes."
Note that PoemTalk is a collaborative project: PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, and the Poetry Foundation.
When Elizabeth Alexander was chosen to give the inaugural poem, there was some stirring in Philly. Elizabeth got her PhD from Penn and put down some roots here. John Timpane wrote a story about her, with a "local angle," for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and asked me for a few comments. I thought about the context (four poets have read at inaugurals) and told him that she didn't have the stature of Frost (Kennedy) but was a better poet than Maya Angelou (Clinton).
PennSound has an Elizabeth Alexander author page. It features recordings of poems she read a few years ago at the Kelly Writers House. Among them is "War", which is the poem she should read on January 20 if she can't write a new work for the occasion.
A critic of the choice of Alexander writes: "Now granted, one can't determine a presidency by its poet. Or can you? Robert Frost for Kennedy, lots of glitz and stirring end rhyme with a seedy underbelly and a lack of much substance? check. Maya Angelou for Clinton, lame pandering to the masses and a seeming unwillingness to look beyond the ego of the poet? check. I guess it remains to be seen exactly what sort of poet and president this combination will bring us."