Monday Tape



Top Five Unattributed Facebook Comments Responding to Anis Shivani's Huffingtonpost Column "The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary Writers"

5. "Sharon Olds & Louise Gluck? Are you f-ing kidding me????"

4. "Dear HuffPo: Do you notice how many of these writers *set* trends in voice, narrative, or style--especially from underrepresented communities. Sure, shit on the people who actually created something--especially as they age. I'm HufPo woulld do such a fucking better job."

3. "I find his point about the institutionalization of creative writing to be compelling. One of the frustrations that I've felt reading contemporary writers (like Foer or Franzen) is a sense of either homogeneity--like they've been sitting around the same tables reading the same texts to the same group of fellow students in classes taught by the same teachers--or all-too-knowing, all-too-hip "postmodern" zaniness (I'm looking at you, Danielewski). I think the literary world would do well to have a bit more intellectual diversity--a few more writers who dropped out of high school to work in factories or join the army rather than coming out of the same closed academic-critical circle."

2. "Is Anis Shivani actually a pseudonym for Michiko Kakutani? Because that would rule."

1. "I've not heard of most of these people."

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If you haven't read Shivani's post, it's good for cocktail chatter and killing twenty minutes.

Billy Collins is one of the writers that Shivani skewers. Here is Shivani's description of Collins:

Billy Collins (Angels on Pins and Walking Across the Atlantic)

Exemplary Lines: "I woke up this morning, / as the blues singers like to boast, / and the first thing to enter my mind, / as the dog was licking my face, was Coventry Patmore."

Court jester to America's grief-stricken royal poets. Pioneered the poet as the stand-up comedian, to which concept many other poets have taken like ducks to water. America's best-selling poet (makes sense, doesn't it?), along with Mary Oliver--the clown and the "nature-lover," taking us hand in hand to oblivion. Part of his carefully nurtured persona is not to take himself too seriously (Louise Gluck, take note, if you want to sell more books), so he says he's not a "great poet." Has perfected, over twenty years, a brand of poetry candy--take a few variables about known facts, alter one of them, and see where that takes you. A one-trick pony who acts in every poem as if he's discovering the trick for the very first time. Typical questions posed: What would it be like to walk across the Atlantic? If the members of a creative writing class were to come back as citizens in a city, what roles would they play? Embodies yet another form of antihumanism, like all the writers on this list. His never-discarded mask of humility is how he shows off in his poetry--and outside it. Imagines he is a container for childlike wonder, but actually exemplifies childish incomprehension. Like the others, escapist denial of death is pervasive. His poems have lately become mostly about writing poems--in his pajamas, with a cup of coffee in hand. He's busy doing nothing--this Seinfeld of American poetry--while you thought poetry was all obscure and defeatist and negative.
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Litany

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine . . .
--Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.


Billy Collins
from Nine Horses