Poets on Criticism

>> Robert Casper:
Hello, everyone. I'm Rob Casper, the
head of the Poetry and Literature Center here
at the Library of Congress, and I want to welcome you
tonight for our panel discussion on Poets on Criticism. Before we begin, let me
mention a bit about the Poetry and Literature Center here
at the Library of Congress. We are the home of the U.S.
Poet Laureate and we put on literary readings, lectures, and panels of all sorts
throughout the year. If you'd like to find out
more about events like this, you can add your name
to the email list which is right outside
in the foyer. You can also check out our
website, www.loc.gov/poetry. And now let me tell you
about tonight's event. And before I begin my formal
introduction to tonight's event, I would like to let you know
that I know it will go well because we were all
together beforehand, and these three talked me
into breaking open the bottle of [inaudible] wine which
has been sitting on my desk for over five years [laughter]. >> Maureen McLane: Only a sip. >> Robert Casper: A sip or two. The Library of Congress
is a proud partner with the Bagley Wright
Lecture Series, and over the past four years
we've featured six contemporary American poets in the series,
including Srikanth Reddy who began his lectureship
by talking about "The Unsignificant"
in September of 2015. Srikanth and Maureen also
participated in a pair of events I moderated
about a decade ago called "Critical Contexts Roundtable
on Contemporary American Poetry" at Harvard University
Library's Woodberry Poetry Room. If the Critical Contexts
Roundtables and the Bagley Wright Series
offered audiences an opportunity to focus on contemporary
poetry and poetry criticism, tonight's event takes a broad,
though complementary, view. Together we will explore the
tradition of poets as critics, talk about the necessity of poet
critics in arguing for poetry to both specialized
and general audiences, and discuss the challenges
poetry and poetry criticism faces, and how poet critics may
best arrest those challenges. We will also leave time
at the end of the event for you to ask questions. I should note thought that
this event is being videotaped and by participating in the Q&A
Session you give us permission to feature you in the webcast. To begin, I have asked each
of our three participants to please [inaudible] and informally introduce a past
poet critic who inspired them. And I would like to begin
with Matthew Zapruder. You can read about Matthew as
well as Maureen and Srikanth in your print program, and
they should be your chairs. All three are among our
finest poets and critics. Additionally, as the
Founding Director of the Bagley Wright Lecture
Series Matthew has made, I would argue, an
essential contribution to American letters. Please join me in welcoming him. [ Applause ] >> Matthew Zapruder:
Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming. Can you hear me? >> Yeah. >> Matthew Zapruder: So I'm
just going to talk briefly. First of all, thank
you, Rob and Anne. Thank you to the Library of
Congress on behalf of all of us and also the Bagley Wright
Lecture Series which is named after the publisher
of Wave Books, where I'm also an
editor, is Charlie Wright. And his father was
named Bagley Wright and he was an art
collector/philanthropist from the Pacific Northwest. And after he passed away, this
series was named after him, and it's — was to —
basically what came about because I was
doing a separate project. I was writing a book
about reading poetry, how to read poetry and
why to read poetry. It's called Why Poetry . And in the process of doing
so I was a lot of criticism about poetry, trying to sort of
get familiar with the literature of what had happened before
— as far back as I could go. And I noticed right away
that — a couple of things. First of all, that a lot of the most lasting written
contributions to the history of poetry criticism were
actually written by poets, although there are
exceptions, of course. And the second thing
I noticed is that many of them were originally
delivered as lectures in front of general audiences. And this interested me greatly,
and I started to think about why that might be when it was about
what happened when a poet stood up in front of a group
of people and tried to articulate something
about poetry in a setting, in a live setting, in front
of like actual human beings, as opposed to writing
something at one's desk. And, yeah. So I started thinking about
this, and eventually ended up talking with the published
of Wave Books, Charlie Wright, about establishing this
lecture series to support poets in doing, you know,
in creating new works of lasting literary merit
that originated in lectures, speaking in front
of an audience. So that's what that Bagley
Wright Lecture Series is. And we can talk more about
that if you want, but. So Rob asked me to, each of
us, to talk a little bit about, you know, a poet critic
who we, who influenced us, who mattered to us, of whatever. And I have, of course,
a long list. But the first name that came
to mind, and I'm just going to quickly mention three. Well, the first name that came
to mind was Wallace Stevens. His work in the Necessary
Angel , which is a collection of is essays, all of those
are actually, I believe, originally lectures,
public lectures. And there's one in particular,
The Noble Writer and the Sound of Words , in which he
talks about a concept called "the pressure of the
real," which I think all of us should be quite
familiar with, which is the — and he wrote, he gave this
lecture right on the eve of the United States entry
into World War II, and he talks about how the pressure of the
real is so immense upon us, and that the only way that we
can push back against it is through a kind of
violence of the imagination which takes place in poetry. It's sort of an aggressive
pushing back against this constant inflow
of news and information and this overwhelming kind
of like thing that's coming at us which, you know,
is laughable that — you know, the proportion
that he had to deal with versus what we
have to deal with. So anyway. So that's, so that,
that's one person. And just — I'll quickly touch
on two others before I turn it over to Maureen and Srikanth. Another's huge influence
was Lorca. His "Theory and Function of the
Duende" and also "Imagination and Inspiration Evasion"
and other lectures, those were originally
public lectures that he gave multiple
times, both in Spain and in the United
States and elsewhere. And those lectures were
so important to me. The concept of the duendes
is such an important concept for American poets and in fact
is the title of one of the books of our current Poet
Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. And so that's — he's a poet
and a lecturer and a critic who I spent, who I
like think about a lot. And the third is actually
someone more recently who I've gotten to know,
the work of Audre Lorde. Many of her critical statements
were also originally given as lectures, and I would just
recommend one which is called "Poetry is Not a Luxury," that
was delivered as a talk in front of a feminist symposium. And it's just this
perfect short talk about why poems are a necessity. It's from a particularly
feminist perspective so it's kind of odd to
read it as like a dude. But it still — >> Maureen McLane: No, it isn't. >> Matthew Zapruder: —
has — well, it felt odd, it felt odd to me to read it,
but it was — but it's also — it contains a lot
of deeper wisdom for anyone about the culture. So, anyway, those are —
that's not one, but three. Sorry. But it's — so I'll
turn it over to Maureen and she can [inaudible]. >> Maureen McLane: I
would in a way echo some of what Matthew has already
brought to the table. And also I want to thank Rob
and the Library of Congress for hosting us, and also
Matthew for his imagination which sounds right for the whole
Bagley Wright Lecture Series, and for this kind
of conversation. So it's a great honor
to be invited. And I'll probably
follow Matthew as well. It was hard to pick one. But just throwing out a few
names and works that came to mind given Rob's prompt. And I spent a lot of time in
earlier periods of poetries in English, particularly
the British Romantic Period, and poets in that moment
have meant a lot to me, particular Percy, Shelley, and
Keats have mattered a lot to me. When I was starting to
read poetry seriously and also had some
fabulous teachers — all of them were critics,
or most of them were critics as well — they put in my
purview some amazing books and anthologies, and I'm a
big believer in anthologies as gateways to all
kinds of things. They certainly were
for me fascinating. You know, how does one even
begin to think about her? How do people even
talk about this stuff? And some gateway
anthologies for me, introduced by the recently
deceased poet and critic and memoirist, William
Corbett, who was based in Boston 30 years, and moved to
Brooklyn about five years ago. Wonderful poet and critic. And he had us read a landmark
1960 anthology called — what was it called — The
New American Poetry . And then it got retitled
The Post-Moderns . And it was a landmark
publication that included a lot of the folks who are
now known in a kind of experimental wing
in American poetry. Everybody from Ginsberg to
Frank O'Hara to Denise Lovertov, to all kinds of great people. And also anthologized were some of the critical statements
including Charles Olson who some people say invented the
term "Post-Modernism" by a poet and not by what, a journalist
or a kind of Marxist theorist? But they were just
really interesting and also user-friendly to walk
into an anthology and have, say, 500 to 1000 words by a poet
and what he or she was up to and how he or she
thought about their work. So that in a way is a
kind of umbrella space through which I encountered,
say, an essay I know matters to Rob, Frank O'Hara's
"Personism," which is very funny and very short and full of
little aphorisms including, you know, basically — if you can call somebody
up on the phone, call them up on the phone. Don't make them a
poem, you know. It's actually kind of love. I'm botching the
elegance of his language. But as I was reading around
over time I found myself more and more interested in the way
poets thought about their art in the context of social life
and democracy and the pressure of the real and how does one
make a space for thinking and feeling that isn't
always squashed in advanced? And for me poetry is one space that has held that
openness for me. And what I found more and
more was that those kinds of questions pressed
themselves historically first, I would argue, on poets
in the late 18th century when the [inaudible] kind
of moment of the onslaught of industrialization
and mechanization. So a poet who I think
really got this and wrote about an interesting —
interestingly was Percy Shelley. And there's a movie come out
called Peterloo which is about a massacre in 1819 in
England of government troops against labor demonstrators. But in the trailer, should you
come across it, there are — I don't know the
term for this — the little words that
flash [inaudible] — yeah [inaudible], thank you. They quote Shelley and
one of the quotes is "Ye are many; they
are few," yeah. And so Shelley was
trying to think hard about [inaudible] — exactly. He was trying to think
hard about poetry, creativity, and democracy. And so his essay, "The Spirit,"
not "The Spirit of the Age" — "A Defence of Poetry"
is a wonderful essay, itself part of a genealogy
going back to Philip Sidney. "Defence Isn't Poetry." Matthew has just written — >> Robert Casper: Right, right. >> Maureen McLane: — one
might say a brilliant defence of poetry — >> Robert Casper: Right. >> Maureen McLane:
— in his book. And Shelley's essay, it's
very high-flying, you know? It's very — he doesn't
give you readings of poems. It's sort of — it literally
begins with something like "From the birth of the
world and the youth of man, human beings have danced
and sun and created." I mean — so he has this
anthropological notion of what humans as a species do. And that we are a
created species. And that poetry is a
subset of our creativity. And how does one
think about changes in poetry over millennia. But I think it's an
extremely beautiful essay and it's an essay written
under the pressure of the real. It's quite an abstract essay. And that's — as a
counter to that level of abstraction I have always
like some of Ezra Pound's essays which are — for some
people, you know, like ach, Ezra Pound put them
in the trash bin. We can have that conversation. He had some really
wonderful earlier essays — do's and don'ts of reading. An essay called "A
Retrospect" where he's talking about the new poetry that should
be alive to the conditions of modern life, not riddled
with abstractions, not composed, as he said, "in the
secrets of a metronome," that it should have a more
musical phrase behind it. So I think he's funny
and he's savage and he also gives
you actual meat. He gives you some actual poems. And he says, "This is terrible,"
"This is Good," right? So that's a different
way of thinking about criticism, the evaluative. And Ed Pound is really willing
to evaluate and, you know, what we would say now in a
Facebook, you know, Like/Unlike, right, which I do think
is a massive degradation of "Critical Horizons." We could talk about that. And I would second
everybody Matthew mentioned as people important and
formative, and I would maybe, if I wanted to mix, too,
an interesting writer like Anne Carson whose works
toggle between critical prose, translation, quote
original work. She herself is a classicist
so she's bringing to bear, you know, a long history
from 5th century BCE Athens and what counted as poetry then, including tragedy,
to our own moment. And so the idea that
criticism can live in many different spaces —
on websites, in newspapers, in surprising essays,
and in poetry as well. >> Srikanth Reddy: And well,
and glad as [inaudible] that you mentioned
Anne Carson [laughter]. But first I — >> Maureen McLane: We
didn't check in advance or anything [laughter]. >> Srikanth Reddy: Yeah. Too much fault with the wine. But thank you all for coming to what's possibly the least
sexy title for a panel — >> Maureen McLane: It's true. >> Srikanth Reddy:
— imaginable. But, it actually
a really, I think, deeply compelling question
facing us right now. And, you know, I thought
it was kind of interesting that you guys didn't talk
about the kind of poet critics who fall under the least sexiest
possible version of poet critics which is the kind of
like/don't like arbiters that I automatically think of
when I think of poet and critic. So, you know, I didn't
have a axe to grind with Randall Jarrell, but that
would be an example of someone who is kind position — who
positioned themselves as a kind of gatekeeper of
what was admitted into verse culture
and what wasn't. And I think that that's
an activity that kind of continues today for
better and for worse. I think there are reasons why
the poetry world kind of needs, or feels the need for
that kind of, you know, that kind of activity, right? But Anne Carson came to mind as
I was thinking about this topic as a contemporary writer because
in a way you wouldn't normally think of her as a poet critic because there's very little
published reviews or criticisms, a criticism that she does. But her poetry is
deeply involved in a kind of critical activity. And in some ways, you could
kind of actually think of it as, not criticism, but critique. I mean you can get — glean moments of
criticism in her poetic work where she does office
readings of other writers like Emily Bronte or even
not just other writers, but visual artists like Gordon
Moddicklark [assumed spelling] or Francis Bacon or philosophers where she examines [inaudible]
micro-script in his notebooks. And, of course, her
classical kind of knowledge. But there's also a way in which
I think she does something that you could call
kind of poetic criticism where she shows us that criticism isn't
what we thought it was, or critical thought isn't
what we thought it was. And that seems to me like it
had the most valuable thing that a poet can bring to kind
of the public sphere in a way, aside from the production
of art, right? But I also think that what
Carson and probably other poets of the tradition can
show us is that kind of poetry itself is a
deeply critical art. It's an art that kind of has a
critique kind of built into it in a kind of imminent
kind of way. And I think that's probably why
we're so touchy about poetry and why even in the
pedagogical context, when a student writes a
poem, a certain kind of poem, people can feel riled up by it,
offended by it, impinged upon by it I think because every
act of writing a poem is a kind of critical act that refers
back to the history of the art, right, or the horizon
possibilities of the art in the passing. So I think one way of thinking
about what the critic is — one thing we're not
talking about so far, and I think I'm glad that
we're not, is we not talking about critic poets
which is a kind of, a kind of genre of
discourse now. But I think poet critics in
a way is almost a redundancy in an interesting way because
I think every real poet is kind of doing critique whenever
they put pen to paper. >> Robert Casper: But I'd like
to just flip that assertion around and say what about cultural commentators
or journalists — >> Srikanth Reddy: Yeah. >> Robert Casper: — or scholars
who are writing criticism. What might critics who
are practicing poets who identify first and
foremost or begin by identifying as poets bring — what might
they bring to the table in their criticism that
you don't see happening with other kinds of critics? >> Srikanth Reddy: So
I don't find much value in it actually, you know. I used to write reviews, and I
very occasionally do sometimes when there's a book that I
admire and am thrilled by, and I think that's really
useful activity like — so you wrote a review of a
book by Anne Boyer a while back that made me look up that book. And I love that book. And so that was a
valuable, you know, thing. But I didn't know
if you find this. But when I write reviews
I shut off a whole part of my imagination and
I'm writing a kind of — a product that is designed
to kind of popularize, introduce kind of
work to an audience. But I don't feel like I'm
actually engaging in kind of creative critique or,
you know, a kind of activity that I feel really
deeply fulfilling. I mean, do you feel that way or? I know you write a lot
of criticism and — yeah. >> Maureen McLane: I mean
I guess I would feel — I would say first, yes. And secondly I guess
the quote, you know, "house of criticism"
has many mansions — >> Srikanth Reddy: Yeah, yeah. >> Maureen McLane: — you know? And I feel like for a lot
of people — I don't know. I mean, you know, you're — both of you are so engaged
with various publics. I feel like you would be like
living barometers of this. But I do feel —
my experience is that there might be,
say, public streams. Maybe there is a minute on
public radio or, you know, maybe there are some — there
are all kinds of venues, right, for popular poetry. But say you wanted to know
what are the young poets in America doing these days? How would you find out about it? And that's — and one this is
maybe go to the web, right? All of that's changed. The media ecology has totally
changed and there's some, you know, fascinating
things that are on web-based critical organs. And I have written a lot of — at a certain point I wrote more
reviews and partly it was — I'm a friend to the
art of describing. I think actually there's a
ton of media for criticism in the universe, and while
there's less and less criticism, there's less and less space
to devoted — I don't know — for example, if one tracks, say, the New York Times and
how they allocate space, one would have noticed a
real contraction and — that they even still have
a book review is unusual. All these book reviews
have kind of collapsed. So where does criticism
happen in our culture? And what is it for? And when I was thinking about
this about 10 years ago, when I think I first
met Srikanth — actually, it was art
historians who were helpful in getting me think about this. And this one guy — I might
be butchering his name — David Joselit. He said, "I think of there
being four kinds of criticism." And I might not remember this. There's the exploratory,
the paradigm marking like these are the kinds
of things, the mnemonic to remember this
is a kind of thing. And I can't remember
what the third is, which tells you something. And another art historian,
Rosalind Krauss, said she always thought the
business of a critic was to scan the horizon
for blips of the new. And that's, you know,
I'm always — I don't feel like that's
my vocation in life. I'm really happy
that there are people in the world who do it, however. I learn things from
critics who are willing to do the work we
might associate with journalism, right? >> Robert Casper: Right. >> Maureen McLane: Like
here's a new poet — or here's a new work
by a poet from Chile. And here's a new
work by, you know. And so I think that that's
actually extremely important and that's been a bit
strangulated by a number of factors in our life right
now, partly speed and pressure. And I think that that kind of —
inasmuch as a lot of, frankly, a lot of journalistic criticism
I see is just an extension of blurbing and I
think it's really weak. And so I feel like, for me, a test of things is
can somebody actually, accurately describe something
even if they hate it? And this is what
I say to students. It's like Haslett
has this great thing about how it's really
important to be a good hater. And so I'm super uninterested
in the like/unlike paradigm as the end of a conversation. It might be a starter
conversation. There are tons of things I love. There are some things
I'm like eh. There are other things
I despise. But I feel if I'm right, if
I'm teaching, or if I'm writing for other people, I feel
like part of my job is to accurately describe it. And, of course, one
can describe things in a bunch of different ways. One can say this
person is writing about this kind of subject. They're writing in
this kind of key. The poets and writers who seem
to matter to her are these. And I think that's really
important pedagogical work. And it's also — this is
how I have found things. I'm mean I'm so thrilled,
you know, that actually somebody
read that review. >> Srikanth Reddy: They
read it, yeah, yeah, yeah. >> Maureen McLane:
But it is interesting. It was a case — I actually
backed off writing reviews because I felt I did not want
to be the village explainer. And I feel that's a temptation. It's like 1600 words
of stuff for people who are not interested
in poetry. Yet I found myself
endlessly galvanized by people who do this well. And whether it's about
chemistry, whether it's about poetry, whether
it's about, you know, crisper in new gene
sequencing, it's like people who are passionate and
good writers, you know, one wants people to have
the space to do that. And so I'm always very admiring
if people take up that gauntlet and — but actually
describe something well. First I'm going to
let be a novice at it. >> Robert Casper: But I don
want to follow up and ask, do you think that
the poetry criticism that you feel moves
beyond simple blurbing, that seems engaging and
inspiring, exciting, is it written more often
than not by other poets than by critics or
cultural commentators or people outside
of the poetry world? >> Maureen McLane: I think
that's a Venn diagram you've just drawn in the air. I mean, one thing I would say — I agree that there is
something definitely like the insider's
traction with things that poet critics can bring
to the table and do and — but, frankly, I was
trying to think of people in younger generations who
are critics who are not poets. And I think that's
actually a big problem. I think there's a lot of
insidery, party [inaudible] — I'm being obviously
completely nonpolitical. But, you know, I think
actually it would be good if there were some more critics
who weren't tolerance, you know? And I think it's — and yet — and there are for complicated
reasons in the U.K. There are. And that's an interesting thing. And it's party about how
things get segmented. And like — I mean,
most people who are in a certain track will
read a novel in the course of three to five years. But I don't know if
you've encountered, you know, poetry phobia, right? It's a very common thing. It's a really common thing. Maybe some of you
are poetry-phobes. But you're here, you know. And I kind of feel, well,
how can one — and this — how can one — and it's
a complicated question. How can one mediate
between those who have made it their
vocation and those who are passionate readers and not only passionate
reader-writers? So I would say yes. I think there's something very
special that poet critics bring to the table, and it's very
striking that one can name — you know, whether it's
someone like Randall Gerard. But I think it's
very telling that, if you talk about quote
mainstream critics who are over 80 — Helen Vendler who
just retired from Harvard, and Marjorie Perloff who
retired from Stanford? >> Matthew Zapruder: Yeah. >> Maureen McLane: And
they were not poets. And they were — >> Srikanth Reddy: Harold Blue. >> Maureen McLane: Harold Blue. >> Srikanth Reddy: Yes. >> Maureen McLane: And it's very
interesting to think of that. There was a whole
tranche of people — >> Srikanth Reddy: Yeah. >> Maureen McLane: — who
wrote on poetry and, you know, and one might agree or
disagree with their approaches and whom they championed, but
there was a sense of describing, at least in Perloff's
and Vendler's case — they were interested in
fine-grained describing. So this is just more a
sociological observation than — and it's just sort
of interesting. I sort of — I'm always so
cheerful when I find somebody who doesn't identify as a poet and actually wants
to write something. It's like, oh, great. It's not just, you
know, everybody already on the team, you know? >> Robert Casper: Well, Matthew,
Maureen brought up the issue of writing to a general
audience to kind of — the village explainer. Maybe you could talk about
why poetry is [laughter] — how you try to reach
a big old village. >> Matthew Zapruder:
And the village idiot. [ Multiple Speakers ] Yeah. I wrote — yeah,
well I mean, I'm just kind of getting — processing
a lot of what's been said. I mean, I don't, first
of all, really — it's so funny that
this conversation kind of veered off into, or became
about like sort of a more like critics who write
about poetry, you know, for — which is interesting. I just even didn't think about. I just kind of have
given up on that. >> Maureen McLane: Yeah. >> Matthew Zapruder: Like
I don't, I don't really — to put much stock in that. I just don't — I
don't know that — I kind of think when it comes to contemporary poetry you all
are more optimistic than I am, that people can explain a book
or demonstrate a book in a venue that would make people
want to read it. That's great. I hope that's true. But I sort of more think
that poets are better at just reading their poems
and having people kind of — I mean, I'm a big believer that if you just let
me read poems somewhere that that will — that they'll
find their audience and that, maybe that goes to what
you had said, Chico, about being like
poems being kind of their own criticism in a way. I'm so interested though in
what I guess what poets can say when they try to talk about
poetry in a larger sense or in a historical context
or try to position it in relation to other activities. And the book that I
wrote was really designed to address what you
mentioned as poetry-phobia. Like this kind of idea that
poems are somehow alien to everyday experience or can't
be understood or aren't written in regular language
or all this kind of bullshit that's
like not true. And so I wanted to try
to just write a book that took directly,
took on those issues. And in that sense, yeah,
it's criticism for sure. But it's sort of
more like a kind of like autobiographical
polemic, I guess I would say. But not really, but not
really criticism in terms of like trying to evaluate
what's good and what's bad. I never really found
that much use in that. I mean I'll just
say it for myself. Like early-on in my career as
a poet, I was writing reviews, which was interesting. And I wrote a bunch of reviews. I'm in small magazines
or in verse magazine. I wrote [inaudible] essays. And then I was asked
to write these reviews for Harvard Review . And they sent me some books. And I hated them. And I wrote these negative
reviews, and that was it. I never wrote another review
after that because I just felt like this is just not
the position I want to be in in relation to
the art that I make. I don't feel like
being the person who just scolds everybody
for doing a bad job. I do it privately all the time
[laughter], but I don't — publicly it just felt bad. It felt like I was
killing my own works. So I don't know. I haven't actually really
given that much thought to what it would be
to write a review in the New York Times
Magazine , you know, or the Book View or whatever. I'm like I'd — I guess I
just don't think about that. I think more in terms
of this kind of — you know, you brought up
Shelley's "Defence of Poetry" and it contains that
famous remark that "Poets are the unacknowledged
legislators of the world." But before that he has
this amazing description where he says that
"Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended
future holding up" — he describes poets as holding
up these giants mirrors to futurity, and the shadows
of futurity, futurity, are cast upon these mirrors. That's what comes right before
that famous remark right at the end of the essay. And I've gotten more
out of that thought — >> Maureen McLane: Definitely. >> Matthew Zapruder: — that idea that poets sort
of are instinctively — are like mirrors of the future
in their poems, and that — than I have out of any —
you know Marjorie Perloff or Helen Vendler book. Might not have read
many of them, you know. So I just — that's where I
go when I want to get back into touch with poetry other than the poetry itself
[inaudible]. >> Srikanth Reddy: It's kind of
like the violence from within versus the violence
from without. But it's — we're in a situation
where it's like criticism from within or the
criticism from without, though I'm talking about, you
know, poets writing criticism versus civilians
writing criticism. And in a way I think that the
most exciting critical activity happens from within that kind
of poetic position, right? So when poets are imagining the
possibilities within poetry, right, which quite
often happens just within the poem itself, right? So, actually, I think Stevens
actually does this [inaudible] with every book, yeah, with
every poem in a way at his best. And when — and I don't want
to like beat up say people who don't write poetry should
not write criticism, right, but that was one
funny incident was — I was flying over
here where I — you know, the only time I
read The New Yorker is on the airplane, and
there was a review of — or there was a piece about "The
Aeneid" and recent translations of "The Aeneid" and
the reviewer, I think it was Daniel Mendelsohn
— I'm not sure who it was — wrote a very smart, thoughtful
piece about "The Aeneid" and put out all kinds of interesting
things like, for example, the 911 memorial has a quotation
from "The Aeneid" that actually in some ways seems to be
sympathetic towards kind of insurgent kind of the
subject position rather than the empire's positionality. But it was utterly
unconvincing as a argument for why anyone should read
"The Aeneid," you know. I read the piece and I felt
like, yeah, but, I don't want to read that poem
again, you know? It seemed like there was no
actual, critical activity that talked about the ways that "The Aeneid" [inaudible] a
failure of the imagination, right, in the ways that "The
Aeneid" is a deeply imitative and unoriginal and
kind of slavish in all kinds of ways, right? I mean, I'm sounding like very
anti-Virgil, but [laughter] — >> Robert Casper: Double here. >> Srikanth Reddy:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see people walking
out [laughter]. But, you know, it felt like
a poetic response to me. It might actually
think about like, well, how do you actually talk about
the fact that Virgil also read, writes "The Shield of
Achilles," but it isn't better than the original "Shield
of Achilles," you know, or that you know, the narrative
is very much modelled on, you know, the — on Homer. I feel like a poet writing about it would have actually
grappled with that, right? And that's the kind of like
being on the inside of the art that — I think actually like
Vendler and Pearl Austin Bloom, they have amazing taste. And one thing I kept that amazes
me about them is that I feel like I could always
write about Paul poets. I mean, I love the
poets who they love. So I guess there is a way
of getting inside the poems without writing them, but it's
hard to imagine how that goes. >> Robert Casper: Let
me take a different tack with the conversation. I'm wondering about what
it means to have the three of you here talking about
the role of poet critics, promoting poetry at the
Library of Congress, the home of the U.S. Poet
Laureate, across the street from the Capitol and the
Supreme Court as an institution that represents something in
American life, represents a sort of storehouse of
knowledge and creativity. How do you think poets now and
going forward can best ensure that not only other poets but a larger audience sees
the great value or poetry, understands how it can
matter to their lives even when those critics
might be talking about something difficult or
somewhat off-putting, you know, the kind of thing that we hear
about all the time when people, [inaudible], the poetry
that you were talking about? >> Matthew Zapruder: You
want to take that one? >> Maureen McLane: I
mean, you know, I think — I mean we have an example
of somebody addressing that in the current
Poet Laureate, right? Thinking about going
to rural communities, if I'm understanding, some of what Tracy K. Smith's
mandate as Poet Laureate is. And also reinstalling that — what is it, the NPR
Poetry Minute ? So the sense of something being
part of the fabric of every day that might come over
the airwaves and — you know, it's like in Vermont,
there's the Garden Report , and then there could also be
the Poetry Minute , right? So those are some ways that seem
to me open and refresh our ears. And it doesn't mean that,
you know, we might respond or resonate with
everything we hear. I mean, on the question of
kind of the civic and the kind of public things I was thinking
about, because you had — there was a question of
the kind of Americanness of this question or not. And I was thinking about
Whitman and I was thinking about he has wonderful,
amazing [inaudible], whether it's [inaudible] Leaves of Grass or Democratic
Vistas which is a dark and timely thing to read, and —
but there's an interesting thing that seems sort of baked into
American literary culture, arguably, that the criticism, as it were came before
distinctively American poetry — we could fight about
this all night. But if one thinks
that Emerson wrote, I think it was actually The
Poet and published in 1844, where he's calling for,
and he says, you know, "our hog-rollers, our butchers,
our, as he said then, Negroes, our Indians, our Kentucky,
our Mississippi, they have yet to find their poet. The vast plains of this
great country, our cities, have yet to find their poet." And there's sort of protest
against English norms and English miles of
poetry and English meters and English pastoral,
and English themes. And arguably, Whitman certainly
thought he answered that call. And he sent his book
to Emerson for a blurb, and Emerson gave
him one, you know. "Well, I salute you at the
beginning of a great career. I greet you at the
beginning of a great career." So I think there's something — it's kind of an interesting
opportunity and a challenge, maybe a burden, that
this sense of — and certainly Whitman
took on that question of a national poetry and a
national poet, and a poet — the great poem of these states. What were the poems
adequate to these states? Another person I was thinking
about in these matters, and it really, I think,
speaks to both Srikanth and Matthew's point,
William Carlos Williams' book in The American Grain is such
an interesting, deeply weird, weird weird prose meditation
on the history of America through figures like Eric the
Red, the Norwegian explorer, and Abraham Lincoln figured as
an old granny, and, you know, all of these sort of
American icon figures. And he's trying to
imagine a counter-America, a counter-America that
is made out of Spanish and French explorers, and
African Americans and Indians, and is not all about puritans, which was an important
intervention to be making in the 1920s. And all this leads me to a
very living poet, John Keene, kind of amazing poet and
writer and translator. Just won a MacArthur. And he has a book, an essay. It's called Translating Poetry, Translating Blackness where
he's calling for a poetry of the America's that
was more interlingual so that we would have a much, as well as activating the
diasporic black traditions in the Americas. And he's asking for more
translations of poets of color, for centuries was
written in, say, Portuguese, Spanish, French. So I just diverted completely
away from Rob's question. But I think this is not
a complete divergence because I think part of the
question is, imagine communities and the place poetry might
have in reminding us, expanding our notions of that,
re-anchoring, making debatable. Part of me, I have to say,
also has a slight recoil from this question because —
or the terms of this question because I also think there
is a very important place for the quiet, the private, the
unassimilable, the non-clubable, the noncommunal, the
nonsocial, the pre-political, the ontological, and so I
don't think it's an accident that a lot of the genealogies
in U.S. poetry would say, well, there's Dickenson and
there's Whitman, you know. And there's — and in a way
it's too tidy, you know, but it does tell us something about their poetries,
the communities. There are also many languages in this country and
that possibility. I felt so excited when people
have introduced me to things or people who are
active translators and who offer other
ways of reading when I can discover
them, so [inaudible]. >> Srikanth Reddy: Well, just
when you were mentioning Emerson and Whitman, it would be — so
I was kind of weirdly arguing against anyone except
poets writing about poetry which doesn't make any
sense because, actually, I think [inaudible]
quick to hear like philosophers
write about poetry. And that doesn't happen
that much now and, you know. >> Maureen McLane:
In France it does. >> Srikanth Reddy:
Heidegger or, you know, we need maybe more conceptual
thinking about poetry than we have right now. Whereas right now, I think much
of the poetry criticism is kind of about popularizing or poetry
appreciation, which, you know, is an important activity. But I think that there's a
dimension that's missing now. >> Matthew Zapruder: Well,
I have a completely — I mean, to be honest,
when you're sitting up here listening, I mean,
I, as a writer of poetry — I mean, I have a completely
contradictory set of opinions, which is, on the one hand,
I totally resent the idea that my work should
be intermediated in any way by a critic. Like I don't care
about what critics have to say about poetry. I've never read a
single review of my work that I found illuminating
to me in any way. I don't learn anything
from them. I don't really [inaudible]
anymore. >> Srikanth Reddy:
Have there been many? >> Matthew Zapruder:
Hardly any [laughter], which is the [inaudible]. But — and I don't
— I resent it. I resent the idea that
somebody should be in-between me and human beings, you know? On the other hand, I crave
somebody saying something interesting and having
them — you know, the — not just about my work,
but about anybody's work that would be of use to me or
like help me change as a writer and learn something or whatever. And I don't really
see very much of that around contemporary
culture right now. I don't know why that is. I think part of it is just
because there aren't a lot of venues, [inaudible] venues
in the support for critics. I think it's tough to make a — if it were ever possible to
make a living as a critic, it's pretty tough now,
and most people, you know, need to be academics or
have some other kind of job. So just the — but, you know,
often my students' papers or writings about other poets
are super interesting to me, actually, because like that's
the time that they just sort of write from their own
perspective or whatever. But, yeah, I mean I don't —
I — but as like a, you know, as a kind of practicer of the
art, practitioner of the art, like I don't — I want to
believe that I can make my work, and directly, and it can
directly connect with people, and it doesn't need
someone to explain it. That almost feels like that
would be kind of failure to me, like if it needed to be
explained by some big brain, by Marjorie Perloff [inaudible]
oh, that's why it's good. That feels like a little too — that feels like maybe I would
have not done a good job as a poet. But like on the other
hand, I don't want to sound like I'm anti-intellectual
or like that I'm like think that all approaches should
just be like, you know, directly appendable
or something. I mean, so I don't, I don't,
I don't have to [inaudible]. >> Robert Casper: Maybe the
problem is the term explainer as opposed to a helper, as you
said, or advocate, or champion, that in a way the
role of the critic, especially a poet critic, is
to say, I understand this. I understand what it
means to write this. I want you to understand it,
too, not just intellectually, philosophically,
historically, but emotionally. >> Matthew Zapruder: Can I — >> Maureen McLane: Like you
just wrote a book on this — >> Matthew Zapruder: Yeah. >> Maureen McLane: I'm pretty — [ Multiple Speakers ] >> Matthew Zapruder:
Yes, you're right. >> Maureen McLane: I
don't think any of us — I mean I completely agree. There's only [laughter]
thinking about things from a reader's perspective from
like, you know, in a way like, oh, I would love to hear — I was just asking before
we finally sat down, like what people are
reading and what they like — >> Matthew Zapruder: Yeah. >> Maureen McLane: — right? And so that could be a kind
of higher order thing rather than — I completely agree
with you, Matthew, that this — that burden that this is
a difficult thing that has to have professional explainers
is just the worst, right? But there is something
about, you know, which your own book
demonstrates, which is, you know, what it is when
somebody who is just, you know, passionate and incisive and knowledgeable inside things
can share that with others. I think that's very different from a gatekeeping
function or a, you know — >> Matthew Zapruder: Right. >> Maureen McLane: — seal
of approval and now you have to subscribe to this
interpretation of this poem — >> Robert Casper: Right. >> Maureen McLane: — to —
got to go to the cocktail party and have something to say about. >> Matthew Zapruder: Yeah. Well, Rob, you asked
like earlier, Plan B, you asked like what is missing? I think you have something
like, you know, what is missing from critics who
don't write poetry? >> Robert Casper:
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. >> Matthew Zapruder:
But was that — was — and it's [inaudible]
love is what's missing. I mean, oh, it's love poetry
and they write from a position of love which can often curdle
into like total disgust. And I think what's one
thing that is missing from contemporary American
criticism right now, poetry criticism right now, is
that we live in an environment where it's dangerous to
critique things, certain things. And I think that there's a
fundamental just giant yawning absence in the writing
about poetry right now. I think that it would be
— it's not, I don't think, for instance I could — okay, I can pick somebody
whose work I happen to personally love,
Terrance Hayes. He's a wonderful poet. His last — most recent
book is fantastic. I think of — I can't imagine
somebody writing a negative review of that book,
being published in a major American
publication right now. I think it would be risky to the
person who wrote it, frankly, because it would be
aesthetically, you know, like consider — they
would be considered like — what's it called —
you know, reprobate or conservative or something. So I think it's hard to write
about art right now in general. So I think that's also
something that's going on. So I think it's easier to be — and you know, there's a lot can
be said from a positive point of view and from a position
of love or whatever. But that's — I think that
poets are sort of — can — you know, I'm thinking about
we have this competition. There's a great piece,
[inaudible], I really recommend for its sheer bitterness,
which is published in 1960 by Robert Bly. It's called "A Wrong
Turning in American Poetry." And it's just absolutely
vicious. I mean it goes through like
all the major American poets [inaudible] dismantles
them in the most like exciting way [laughter]. It's like I long for
an essay like that now. >> Maureen McLane: Yeah. >> Matthew Zapruder: It would
be amazing to read somebody's — >> Robert Casper: William
Luggen doesn't do it for you? >> Matthew Zapruder: No. It's not really the same
because it's too limited. He's like — he's so — he's just like a bitch
about everything, you now? It's like he's not — he's not like [inaudible],
you know [inaudible]. It doesn't come from this like
— Bly writes from this like — from deep love, you
know, like this. He's so pissed because
like a pair of [inaudible] let him down. That's different, you know. And I'd say, I just wish
somebody would write that. No. I mean I'm not dumb enough
to do it, but I'm [laughter]. Maybe somebody else
on the stage is. But, anyway, he asked me. They're like love is the thing. And so like when I wrote
my book, like I was just — it was out of love for
the art and it was — I wasn't, you know,
I was like, yeah, I'm going to try
to explain things. But secretly my agenda was
to — you know, that's — unexplain everything and
get to the end of the book and have it be like about how
it is a fundamentally private experience and there's a limit to what can be said
about it, but yeah. I don't know where my point
was there, but [laughter]. >> Robert Casper: I'm going to
see if you have questions — [ Multiple Speakers ] >> Matthew Zapruder: He
has a lot of the questions. >> Robert Casper: I have a lot
of questions, but I feel like, you know, I want you
to ask questions. So [inaudible] with the mic. Who would like to
ask a question? Please. >> Thank you for
your [inaudible]. I wondered what you
all thought about — you had said that nation and Stephanie Burke
writing an anthology for having published a poem
[inaudible] and, you know, there's been history
for [inaudible]. You use phrases that
[inaudible] you use the language of his core [inaudible]
like women. Isn't that okay? >> Robert Casper: I think
that might be a kind of tangential question to
the role of public critics because though Steven Burke
actually now [inaudible] served on the panel that I had, the
group context panel I had with Maureen McLane,
she was doing that in her role as editor. And it wasn't much
of a critical — >> Matthew Zapruder: But that
is a kind of criticism though. I mean, you're trying to — >> Maureen McLane: It is. >> Matthew Zapruder: —
bail us out of the question, but we're going to
bail us back in. >> Maureen McLane: Yeah. >> Matthew Zapruder:
That's is a kind of crazy. Anything is a kind of criticism
and — but just to be fair, the note of apology was actually
written by both Stephanie Bird and [inaudible] who
are both the editors at the Nation Magazine . And the poet's name
is Anders Carlson. We — and he wrote a kind of
bad poem basically about — from surfing the point of
view of a homeless person. And the real problem with
the poem is it was kind of a bad poem, actually. It wasn't — it was
sort of a dumb poem. I mean the motivation
might also be problematic. I can't really speak to that, but I suppose I could imagine
some kind of platonic world, somebody writing a good poem
from that point of view. But it was sort of a stupid poem
that was not very well thought through in my opinion,
having read the poem. And it was just like — I
think that was a lot of — >> Srikanth Reddy: Sure. >> Matthew Zapruder:
Had it been better, maybe the conversation might
have been more interesting. But it was just not — it
was shallow is my point. It was like it was — it
didn't really actually sound like a person in that
position talking, first of all. And second of all,
the point of making that a poem altogether
seemed kind of — like what was the
point of doing that? Like why just sort of — that
didn't even seem like a — like I won't say appropriate,
because that makes sense, too. Ethical, I just mentioned. But just useful thing
to do as a poem. And so I didn't really get —
I thought they did a bad job by picking that poem, and I thought they should have
stuck behind their choice. I thought they threw
the poem under the bus and they shouldn't have done that because once
you pick something, you should stand behind it. It's not right to throw a
young poet under the bus. And I'm friends with
both those people, but I didn't like what they did. And — but I also
thought the poem was bad. So I thought the whole
thing was a mess. >> Srikanth Reddy: Sure. >> Maureen McLane:
I mean, I think — >> Matthew Zapruder:
That's what I think. >> Maureen McLane: — I
think, you know, you know, Matthew just very
economically laid out a lot of my thought processes. And I do think, too — and,
again, this may be pivoting away from the premises
of your question, but I do think this was also
something about the temporality of reading and what those
kind of Twitter outcry. And I think that
there's a sense — I think that was an apology
written under enormous pressure. And that is the situation
we are in now. We're in a situation of
reactivity all the time. And so the space to have
a conversation about — and these things are
unavoidable and necessary, whether you're talking
appropriation, ventriloquism, varieties of American
vernacular English, who speaks, who gets to speak. I was quite taken aback, and I thought it was
not helpful comment — Roxanne Gaye, a write
whom I enormously admire, you know [inaudible]
stay in your lane, and I'm like, wow, you know? So I didn't feel like — you know, all of us are having
inner cops activated a lot, and that's pretty depressing. But it's also is
sort of where we are. And so I can't help but feel — it partly seemed to me like
this glorious horrible symptom of a lot of things. And that the — what
does one call it? The — like not even the
24-hour news cycle, but — >> Srikanth Reddy: Spin cycle. >> Maureen McLane: —
spin cycle was so intense. One could understand why they
did write such an apology, but I also thought it was
milquetoasty and weird. And I do feel — I think very
much that editing and curating and organizing lecture series
is a form of criticism. That's — and that's why
anthologies are so important, and syllabi, and all that. So — >> Matthew Zapruder: Jump in? >> Robert Casper: Yeah, but I
think that the difference is that the apology was not —
I think that as a critic, you can write as
strong defense of a poem and then you can
change your mind, right? As an editor, you
publish a poem — >> Matthew Zapruder: Right. >> Robert Casper: — and then
to kind of retract it is to — I think it goes against the
role one takes on as an editor and pushing forward work
that you believe in. So I understood why
they had to do it. >> Matthew Zapruder: Can I
just say one quick thing, which is that it's depressing
that the amount of time and energy that was devoted to
the discussion of this, at best, mediocre poem, was compared
to all the other work that has been published
recently. It was absurd. And it was depressing as a poet
to watch this because it — just people just cannot
stop talking about this because they love to
watch poets misbehave. And they — so people
do anything but then actually talk
about what you saw. I'm not saying it wasn't an
interesting topic of discussion, but it's like even that
it became, you know, this conversation is a little
— was a little like grim to me, I felt like, but it
preferred [inaudible]. >> Robert Casper: I don't think
that makes it easy for someone to ask another question. >> Matthew Zapruder:
Oh, I'm sorry. [ Multiple Speakers
and Laughter ] >> No. >> Robert Casper: Thank you. Thank you. >> Hi. >> Robert Casper: Hi. >> I enjoyed the discussion,
so thank you for that. [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> Maureen McLane:
Not Facebook per se, although maybe [inaudible]. >> Matthew Zapruder:
Like and dislike. >> It was [inaudible] Facebook
as far as the type of discussion that creates in some instances. By the way, if and
when you think of something [inaudible] a
long time ago [inaudible]. It's a moment of communication
of the social media as a whole kind of
has this unique place in that it's really been
free of [inaudible] sort of critical treatment because
been on television books. Even other magazines and newspapers have always
had this sort of sidecar with them talking about how
they function and their uses, where as social media, which
is — were seen as, you know, downstream lighthouses. Maybe the most powerful
form of communication, at least in the last
hundred years come out. And within that realm
now we see the emergence of what's called [inaudible]. And I guess my question
is twofold, which is do you see social
media as a form of communication that does exist outside
of the reach of criticism? And if so, how do
you handle something like the incredible
popularity [inaudible]. We just had [inaudible]. She sold out two nights of,
I think, the Lincoln Theater, and those are people that
are getting more raves on an individual [inaudible]. >> Maureen McLane: Yeah. >> You know on a daily basis. So just what are your
thoughts on that one? And, yeah, [inaudible]. Thank you. >> Maureen McLane: I
mean, I'm agnostic. I'm sort of come all ye. And I sort of feel like — I tend to think of not
poetry, but poetries. And I think that there
are lots of different ways that people encounter poems
people write for platforms, people write for
communities, people write out of traditions
and genealogies. Some of them might
be fellow poets. Some of them might be
thinking with Homer. Some of them might be
thinking with James Skylar. Some of them might
be the interface of poetry and pop music. Some of the — and
I sort of feel like I could have a sociological
response to that which is, you know, mass culture creates
new niches for communication. Okay. So I just sort of
feel like more power to you. And I also feel, you
know, the question — it's a very interesting
question, too, about, as you said, like sidecars
going with older media forms and that there's just
probably starting to be a more robust kind of
sociological conversation or [inaudible] aesthetic
conversation about what is the
logic of Twitter? Are people like tweeting
entire novels? Or the question of
restricted form. Does the 140 character
tweet actually lend itself to a possible striking form? So I'm kind of — I kind of — this is a thing that I don't get
my knickers in a twist about. And partly — this is a thing
where I find consolation in — or, if not consolation, maybe
provisional balance in thinking about broadside culture or
tradition, and Bali culture, and population poets of the 19th
century who somebody like, say, Emerson or Hawthorne, would have
to spend like, uhh, you know, put them in the trash bin. But there are many ways
to live in and with verse. And not all poetry is verse,
not all verse is poetry. So I'm kind of pivoting
away from your question. But I just — I feel like
there's a kind of Venn diagram of intersection and there's like
a slim intersection between some of these things and
some other matters. I also encounter some very good
critical discussions sometimes on Facebook even though I do
feel it like, it rots my brain. >> Robert Casper: Yeah,
that was my question. Is social media offering a new
kind of venue for criticism, new ways to think
about criticism? Or does it just feel like it
likes/dislikes predominating? >> Srikanth Reddy: I'm not
on social media [laughter], so I'm not very qualified
to answer. But maybe that qualifies me
to imagine its possibilities in a more utopian or dystopian
kind of way as a non-user. And, you know, I can imagine
that one problem of — no. You can imagine like Walt
Whitman saying Facebook is the greatest poem on end, you know, that there's all these
immense possibilities, right, in the [inaudible]. You know, I can imagine that
the 140-character tweet is as compelling formally as
the haiku form or, you know, or has potentialities within
it that are as compelling as any other formal constraint. But I think that the thing
that I would wonder about, and, again, I'm not qualified
to comment on it because I just have too much
of an addictive personality to ever go on social media, is that I think popularity
can leave a metric of value. And it seems that — >> Matthew Zapruder:
What [laughter]? >> Srikanth Reddy: But like —
but are there like actual kinds of communities and
opportunities or potentialities within social media for more
kind of sophisticated ways of thinking about what
literary value might be within that formal practice. I don't know. >> Matthew Zapruder: Yeah. First of all, tweets
are now 280 [laughter]. >> Maureen McLane: Yeah, right. >> Matthew Zapruder: That's
talking about odd thing about, and I'm sure other people in
this room have noticed this, but is that — so tweets,
when they were 140 characters, that's also the same
number of words, syllable — that would be the exact word
in syllabic kind of a sonnet — >> Srikanth Reddy: Uh-huh. >> Matthew Zapruder: — right? So the 10 iambic pentameter
sonnet would be 10 beats, 14 [inaudible] and [inaudible], that seems like a totally
irrelevant coincidence, but I just thought
I'd point it out. >> Robert Casper: One
more question right here. >> I just found that in
reading criticism by poets, that one of the exciting
things [inaudible] was not the descriptive value of
the role that they play, but the prospective role. I think [inaudible]
one by [inaudible] but also [inaudible] Stevens
writing very [inaudible] the [inaudible] about
like the poet of — sorry, the poem of
Al [inaudible]. And then he starts talking
about well, what is the poem of [inaudible], for instance. And as someone who likes also to
write poetry, I find that type of praise that I
read a criticism by poets really inspiring
and useful. And I wonder if you
find it the same way. Are you inspired by
criticism of that sort? And do you see a role for this
sort of perspective criticism when a poet turns to prose to describe the thing
they can't quite achieve in their own heart [inaudible]? >> Maureen McLane: You question
reminds me of Matthew's, you know, very beautiful opening
up of Shelly's defensive poetry which ends with this whole
question of poetry and futurity. And that whole thing
about, what is it? Poet to the higher offense
of an unapprehended — >> Matthew Zapruder: Mm-hmm. >> Maureen McLane:
— inspiration. >> Matthew Zapruder:
Inspiration. >> Maureen McLane:
And it's all about — it's like what is
not yet apprehended? What is not yet legislated? What might yet happen? And that's also a key
in Emerson, you know? It's like the Poem of America
does not yet, you know? And it's a call for. And so people talk
about a kind of — this is why a manifesto
[inaudible] very dogmatic and they can feel like you're
being amputated, you know? But it is so wonderful when
one encounters something that feels enabling
or inspiring. And I definitely feel that, in a certain key,
Shelley is like that. Or if you read some of
Anne Carson's essays, they open up doors or
open up some possibilities that one might not
have thought of. And that might be the most
— you have that sense that, you know, you would expand
your own either thinking or writing or reading practice. I mean that seems to me the real
gift of these kinds of essays, books, et cetera, when they
actually can resonate that way. >> Srikanth Reddy: Yeah. I think that's a great question
to end on in a lot of ways. I think that kind of — and prospective would be in some
ways like my ideal for what kind of criticism would do, right,
rather then proscriptive. And I don't know that — I mean, I think we can have
more of that. But that would require also —
that requires thinking outside of the 250-word review or,
you know, the different kinds of media outlets for criticism. And this is why things
like the lecture are a form for thinking possibilities
for poetry. And I think that, you know,
that's what the poet critic in some ways, you know,
would [inaudible]. >> Matthew Zapruder: I mean, when poets write
criticism they use words like higher fats [laughter]
or luxury or nobility — >> Maureen McLane:
Negative capability. >> Matthew Zapruder: — or
duende, negative capability which was in a letter that [inaudible]
wrote to his brothers. That's — and they write those
words because they are poets and they can't help but
ultimately be preoccupied with the texture and
possibilities of language and probably words
that they're — that they have an
instinct apply, but they're not totally sure. And a lot of the criticism
about poets is kind of a — often is a sort of exploration
of the use or association of a certain word
with importance. And a kind of instinctive
choice that's then justified in the course of the
essay or the lecture. And that's just not
how academics and generally write criticism. I mean, you know, it's — they have a different way
of approaching the work. It's just — and so
that's probably why I like poetry written, but
criticism [inaudible] better because it operates in a kind
of way that poems operate, too. It comes out of the love of, not
just the poetry like some kind of weird abstract thing, but out
of a love of language and words. And those are the most
memorable moments to me. And I think they've had
a profound influence on our thinking about
poetry, actually. I mean this — you brought up
Coleridge, but Wordsworth's, you know, "Introduction
to the Lyrical Ballads" in 1799 is the single most
important poetic statement that was made for a long time. It's deeply influenced even
today our ideas about — and if you read that, you see
general ideas about poetry and what people think. And it's — these
are, these are — this is meaningful work
in terms of the practice and understanding
of poetry, so, yeah. >> Robert Casper: On that
note you should go back and read your Coleridge. You should also consider books by all three of our
poet critics. They're very different
kinds of books engaging with the art critically. And I encourage you to
get all three of them. Two other things I want to
tell you before I let you go. This is a busy, exciting
week here at the Library of Congress for Literature. Tomorrow, Halloween, also
marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein . >> Matthew Zapruder: Nice. >> Robert Casper: We're going
to have an epic all-day reading of the novel in the Main
Reading room, the perfect place to be spooked out by some sort of hybrid humanoid
form [laughter]. >> Matthew Zapruder: If you
haven't been already [laughter]. >> Robert Casper: That
will be [inaudible] on the Library's
social media account, so you should definitely tune
in if you can't make it there. But we'd also love to
see you this Friday. If you want to know
what's happening with your [inaudible] poetry, the Library of Congress
if your place to go. You should come to the Whittall
Pavilion across the street in the Jefferson
Building at noon and you can find out about it. Of course you can sign
up on our sign-up sheet. We'll send you information
about it. Thanks so much for
coming out tonight. Get some books. Get them signed. >> Matthew Zapruder:
And thanks a lot. >> Maureen McLane:
Thank you, Bob. >> Matthew Zapruder: Thank you. [ Applause ]

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