Tuesday, January 11, 2005

from The Boston Comment

"Perhaps there is a parallel, cult-like aura of inviolability protecting this new writing from critical inquiry: such writing, which verges on a kind of liturgy, comes with its own form of worship and its own tenets of faith. True believers do not question its methods; they accept its sacramental texts as the Word. In neither case is readability or critical inquiry at issue. Like artifacts of automatic writing, these liturgical offerings are akin to divine revelation—believe in it or don't, but do not examine, question, or evaluate it. The church of new writing has established what every church needs: their articles of faith. They call theirs “poems.”

Alarming, not so much for their lack of meaning as for their critical immunity, such poems are immune not because of any so-called “difficulty,” or because the poem can only be evaluated in a “historical context” devised and/or approved under the terms of one or another literary canon; their critical immunity exists because poetry is the only field where its practitioners can openly claim that their products are not to be evaluated by others in the same field. As with any highly subjective, paranormal enterprise, having an “outsider” try to “see” how their poem works immediately invalidates the results. You get it, or you don't. Thus, only a true believer can “read” a poem from the church of new writing. " ... JOAN HOULIHAN, the Boston Comment, when commenting on The Best American Poetry 2004.

Joan may well be a bystander at the parade shouting "But the Emporer is wearing no clothes!" Bravo Joan Houlihan.


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