Collecting bad words for biographers. James Joyce: "biografiend." Joyce Carol Oates: "pathographer." "Every great man has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography" – Oscar Wilde.
(I hope none of the potential students of my biography seminar are reading Culture Industry these days, since I'm giving away most of the few ideas I have about the subject.) Catherine Parke, in Biography: Writing Lives, justifies the fact that all of her exemplary texts are literary biographies:
Over the past 200 years, professional writers have surpassed the former leading candidates of biographical interest in Western culture: royalty, saints, and military heroes. Writers, beginning in the late seventeenth century, became the new heroes of modern print culture and expanding literacy. Their lives also became templates for post-Renaissance notions of the relation between public and private self, the Western invention of individual identity, and the foundational concept of the reality of a psychological life.Well, ain't that convenient? I'm a literary scholar, teaching the works of poets, fiction writers, dramatists & essayists, & have gotten interested in biography; & by golly, there seem to be more biographies about the people I'm already invested in than anybody else! So I (MS) must hie me off to Barnes & Noble & do some grubby quantitative analysis. First I go thru the "Biography" section counting heads; then I'm off to the places Parke isn't looking – "Music," to count how many lives of Frank Black, Morrissey, & Madonna there are, & "Film," where lives of Rock Hudson & Marilyn Monroe outsell the latest Ezra Pound any day of the week.
Aside from the self-aggrandizing nature of Parke's claim, there's something to be said for examining specifically literary biography (& yes, most of the biographees this spring will be writers), not least the hurdle of making interesting lives whose most significant moments are spent in solitary desk-labor; & of course the mise-en-abyme of the writer confronting the writer, trying to capture one set of words in another.
Obviously I haven't written much about poetry per se in ages. But I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when blogospheric compatriats like Josh Corey would actually post work in progress. Here's a fragment of my own w-i-p, maybe a bit of an aria from a post-android opera:
bend down you fabled aviatrix& John Latta's been posting some very gnarly new lines on his gnarly Dumpster Island.
mistress of struts fuselage
and yellow busy wasps
beneath your canopy I acquaint
me with sea-surge the moan
of dark and underwater
caves swim through the air
on pinioned and tense wings
lights dim and pattering rain
Eric posted this clip a few weeks back on Say Something Wonderful, but it's too good not to disseminate, particularly since I've had the song ringing thru my mind for days now.