johnsu01 (johnsu01) wrote,

Why people say poetry is dead, maybe

Catching up on old issues of The Nation (2005 June 13, don't laugh), I came across this interesting take on the "good poetry is dead" book industry. It's from Lee Siegel's review of Break, Blow, Burn by Camille Paglia.

It's for educated people who want to feel better about not being as interested in poetry as they've been told educated people should be. Paglia belongs to that group of critics who learned long ago how to satisfy the vanity of smart, culturally credentialed people who either no longer have the time to read or who, for one reason or another, are not drawn to high culture---in this case, poetry. You tell such people in wry, ironic, cultured tones that there's no longer anything worth reading. In this way, you reassure them that the classics they read in college, and perhaps graduate school, are all they need to know. You inform them of all this under the aspect of a "crisis". That way, you give them an occasion to substitute moral indignation for intellectual absorption; you enable them to indulge the illusion of experiencing an "issue" of high culture as though they were experiencing the real thing. America must be the only country in the world where moral indignation has become an established intellectual style.

I was struck mainly by the insight into how we can feel like we are experiencing some aspect of culture when we involve ourselves is some related "issue". I also think that part of this book industry is reaffirming the idea that poetry is "high culture" at all.

Tags: art, poetry, quote, the nation
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