Another take on the Muldoonery

A colleague sent me a link this morning, and I must say the Brits seem pleased. But then, I must also suspect that they're pleased more for the possibility of more Anglophilia (of course, I use this term in the loosest possible sense to include all the British isles) inhabiting NYer poems.

Something a bit tangential (but not) to the subject at hand relates to the comments section of the above article. I suppose it's nothing new, but I have to admit that I've never heard MFAs being blamed for the bland wank that is The Standard New Yorker Poem (sort of like the poodle, but not as smart). One commenter likened the weeding work that is as default to the MFA as ramen to "vetting pets up for adoption." In the case of the NYer, and any other mag with a profile high enough to warrant a "slush box" for all those sentimental quatrains from Grandma's quilting circle, I think that the weeding procedure is much less about picking up on the puppy in the window and more about getting rid of the uglies. There's no glory to be had in picking the prize poodle, is there? Are the MFAs hacking away in the basement of the NYer really self-important enough to think that their weeding could be determining the aesthetic direction of the magazine?

Yes, I've seen many an MFA careerist. Yes, it's an industry. But does that imply that all MFAs are black-hearted careerists who care little to nothing about quality of work (theirs or anyone else's) if it means nabbing a comfy tenure-track job and a home for those dusty MSS? Seriously, sometimes I think that people liken MFAs to pornographers, where poets like Muldoon are Bergman.

But back to the internationalization of poetry - this article makes an argument implicitly against the MFA mills less ad hominem, more a matter of political engagement. How much can one be engaged in what's going on in the world when one is so swept up in submissions and the de rigueur nit-picking of workshop? To this, I would say that the workshop - at least, the post-MFA cohort workshop - is a means of engaging politically, and that not nit-picking is de rigueur.

Of course, poets who have to cross the ocean to come to work must be more political. Of course (there's a bit of assuming going on here, I think). And hello, Eurocentrism! I will say that there's a bias against the political in mainstream American poetry. A by-product of the deconstructed lyric and the backlash against traditional narrative structure, I feel. Both styles can be equally political, but there's a greater danger in the lyric of conceding to the sexy for sexy's sake. Ah, the slippery slope of deconstructionalism. Though, hello Joshua Clover, et al? There's a lot of good political writing going on in this country if one takes the time to dig a little deeper. And, since this is poetry we're talking, one needn't write About the War to be writing about the war.


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