Monday, January 29, 2007

pinsky on bernstein

i almost never read robert pinsky's "poet's choice" columm in the sunday washington post book world because it is often frightfully dull and insipid. but this week's caught my eye because it leads with a poet whose work is very important for me.
Robert PinskyCharles Bernstein writes both prose and poetry about poetry, sometimes brilliantly, in ways calculated to upset the middlebrow and thwart the bland. The more you like the poetic equivalent of a nice tune, easy to hum, the more Bernstein means to disrupt your complacency.

Nearly all his poems are about poetry. Some are mere donnish jokes, but sometimes his noodling gets at moral meanings on a broad social range. His new book, Girly Man, takes its title from the phrase used by California Gov. Schwarzenegger at the 2004 Republican National Convention, deriding pessimistic critics and the opposition. Because the phrase has become a comic cliché, repeatedly echoed, it no longer sounds offensive -- drained of resonance. The ugly, bullying term has been dulled by attention so automatic that it amounts to inattention.
unfortunately this reads like one more to add to the "they really don't know how to read poetry" files. nearly all his poems are about poetry? mere donnish jokes? noodling? really, mr. pinsky -- are you that utterly lacking in imagination? he seems to want to appreciate bernstein if not outright like him, but his poetic sensibility is simply too impoverished. (to his credit, the link to yvor winters at the end of the column is not badly made...)


Jordan said...

Gedankenexperiment: Draft a description of Mr. Pinsky's poems in the manner (and from the perspective) of Mr. Bernstein.

Ryan W. said...