Poetry discussions aren’t the worst thing ever, really. They’re better than, like, Elvis Impersonator nights.
So allow me to initiate one here by introducing one of the many words that can be tabbed as credentials for grading verbal art: virtue. Also, let me backtrack and say that the reason I’m rendering this discussion, the reason I’m writing this blog post, has to do with the fact that this new poetry in The New Yorker is in no way affecting, nor has it been for a little while. Also, a reason why I’m writing this is that I remember certain past pieces as being gritty, gutty and fresh, dealing with things like chicken slaughterhouses and other vertexes of idyll and rancor’s close juxtaposition in life.
The New Pornographers, in one of their less exciting tracks, “Mass Romantic,” harbor in the word “virtue” in extolment, bemoaning the lack thereof on the “radio, radio.” Anyway, music isn’t judged by lyrical semantics (though such a rubric would behoove “Mass Romantic,”), but let’s just treat the situation as if poetry is aided by a credible “virtue” pillar. This is a relevant discussion because there is inarguably none in this new New Yorker fare. One of the pieces, “The Sun Rising, Pacific Theatre,” likely chosen for its association with the great sure-shot cheap draw of the “Pacific,” is basically a mope-fest about “when no one loves you.” First of all, as Camille Paglia points out in Sexual Personae, all “the poets” know that true love is impossible. The New Yorker piece is basically spinning its wheels, and it’s only made more useless by the personification “blue-sky thinking.” This is poetry for old people, plain and simple, which of course may be what the magazine was going for. What separates it from being de facto “folk poetry” is that it strikes me as having been written by a rich guy. What’s folk plus wealth? Yuppiedom.
The next poem begins with the line “Ocean, don’t be afraid.” The guy’s name is actually Ocean, but still, he could have chosen an alternative moniker here. The intention is obviously to infuse the vast expanse with feeling capabilities, and he goes on to divulge how the “spine / won’t remember its wings…” As in the former piece, stultifying methods are employed in the form of universally signified terms like “mother” and “love.” Such indicators of omnispresently fecund actual real-life affectors lay waste to the pieces’ artistic abilities to infuse feeling into everyday, mundane objects. The pieces are cinematic and sentimental, and give little endorsement to the evidence of a life courageously lived.
Is the magazine employing a crutch tactic using this inane personification, trying to be “cute” in the way they objectively approve of their submissions? Either way, the primary downfall of these poems is that they fail in any way to be cultural, because they don’t comment whatsoever on humanity, the way it interacts, or what this means in 2015.