Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jasmine Green Tea and Used Furniture

...In one wing, the oxygen mask taken from the famous writer of terza rema glee while in another an infant arrives...

There's a really great post over at Heaven Tree about "fake mysteries." It's so good, there's not much left to say, but since Gawain's talking painting, I might complain about an unfortunate aesthetic approach that I've detected in some contemporary poetry (sometimes called "associative"). I guess I'll pick Dean Young as my target, but only because he's probably the best known representative of this unhappy "technique."

Gawain comments on this painting (apparently, the most famous in Venice!):

Far from being a carefully laid out puzzle, it has been assembled haphazardly and several times repainted. X-ray analysis has revealed that the armed man on the left had originally been — a naked woman, a scale of change not consistent with any conception of a thought-through, a priori worked out ideographical program. The painting’s composition was in fact an ad hoc exercise in mystification: “Let’s see, said the painter to himself, what do I put on the left? A naked woman?” He did, stepped back, and looked at it. “Nah, that don’t work. How about… how about… I know! An armed man! Let me try it… Yeah, that looks weird enough.”

Gawain calls this kind of mystification "an intellectual fake," and I strenuously agree. Read some Dean Young poetry here and here. It all certainly sounds "weird enough," but what does it mean?

I'm comfortable saying "It doesn't mean anything," and reading better poetry, but I am a little frustrated by the popular success achieved by these kinds of, ahem, artists. I've heard enough people talk about appreciating Dean Young's poetry that I can recall a few of their keywords: "It's a tone," or "The images are vivid," or "It has something to do with sound," but the justification always seems hazy like this, always non-specific, always unconvincing and unconvinced.

And yet I'm not wholly innocent of these charges. There is something about Dali... vivid images, maybe. Haha. And maybe even this guy:


Wishydig said...

Hmmm. So are you saying that formalism is the only honest criticism because it doesn't care about intention?

Anonymous said...

Yeah...Postmodernist is often just another word for shit.

My response: Don't worry about it. That shit will fade away anyways. Just make sure you're not falling into the creation or criticism of it.

There are plenty of good, meaning-laden authors around. Just read and teach them.

Dean Young's latest book, I think, is more down-to-Earth. I think even he has realized the pettiness of much of his earlier poetry.

Casey said...

There's no such thing as honest criticism, Michael.

Wishydig said...'re saying 'no' to my question?

But don't confuse criticism with academic writing.

Casey said...

I thought about saying more, Michael, but I don't really understand your question... so I decided to be witty.

Isn't that what people do when they don't understand?