Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ye olde modernes

There's one advantage to electing Democrats to the White House; at least every four years they give you something to talk about in a poetry workshop, in the form of an inaugural poem. Richard Blanco's effort yesterday is interesting: not interesting enough to be good poetry, but interesting enough to talk about. It feels as though he were given a list of topics to touch upon, a handful of themes to treat, & was left to make the best of them – in a wholly un-ironical manner. Maybe it's the utter absence of irony that's unsettling.
Teaching the modernists this semester. This week it's "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," a poem which I've been reading for a quarter-century or more, I'd guess. So I re-read it again a half dozen times over the past few days. I suspect it will be a hard sell – so much of it depends on modulations of tone, evocations of cultural landscapes all these young people born in the 1990s can't even imagine. It was hard for me to imagine them when I first read the poem, as well, but then I've been more or less professionally thinking about it & poems like it for years & years now.

Distance. "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley," or for that matter "The Waste Land," is as far away from us in 2013 as those poems were from Keats and Shelley's major works. I have trouble wrapping my mind around that.

1 comment:

Sisyphus said...

an old bitch gone in the teeth, a botched civilization.

...actually, those are the only words of the poem that ever really resonated with me, or that I ever paid much attention to.