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Aesthetics

Why I Hate “The Arts”

August 31, 2011
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Perhaps it is the ends of art I hate–the way it is “valued” rather than integrated into the dynamic of being alive.

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Didactic Sonnet

August 2, 2011
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If Plato came back today and saw the workshop, craft obsessed nature of poetics, he’d give his approval, but not for reasons poets might like: Plato would approve because the stupidity of inspiration has been removed from the writing of poems.

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The Four Functions and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

April 20, 2011
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As Kafka said: “The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens; doubtless this is so, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for the heavens signify simply: the impossibility of crows.”

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Sentimentality vs. Feeling

March 29, 2011
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True feeling has the force of grace; sentimentality has the stench of morals. The word “should” and “must” cling to its fat cherubic legs. Half comprised of self regard, and the other half a mixture of cliche, the sentimental is close to the feigned regard of the funeral director: appropriate, and grave, but with one eye on the itemized bill.

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Poem of the Week: Wallace Stevens

March 24, 2011
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[Large Red Man Reading]

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How Tu Fu Works

March 11, 2011
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We perceive a break between images and feeling. But perhaps this break is artificial. We acknowledge that images can evoke feelings, perhaps that there is an “objective correlative” that can reliably evoke feelings. But perhaps what is being suggested here is that the category break is weaker than we think. The image (object) is already interpreted: “values are the way we see things.”

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Bob Kaufman’s Solitudes Crowded With Loneliness

February 21, 2011
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Paradoxically, the Beats depicted themselves and the society they were rejecting in surreal imagery. America, in their estimation is a surrealist circus, full of absurdities.

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Gatekeepers of Literary Greatness: On Piety

December 21, 2010
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In the full complexity of human constructs piety is the rhetoric of conflicting and supposedly coherent values.

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Gatekeepers of Literary Greatness: Some Definitions and a Parable about Chickens

December 15, 2010
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The chickens are purifying their system, purging it of corruption. Meanwhile, the chickens who willfully refuse to answer the bell are seen as impious, as negative, as renegades.

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Aesthete and Propagandist: An Interview with Gene Tanta

December 10, 2010
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It’s getting later than it’s ever been and the sonnet is nearly over: do you know where your closure is?

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On Gene Tanta’s “Critical Introduction to Unusual Woods.”

October 30, 2010
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Even though both the form and content of Gene Tanta’s work are particular to his Romanian-immigrant experience, he insists that his poetry is accessible to everyone. His poetry, he says, exists both as aesthetic objects and political propaganda. This is absolutely true about all poetry, not just his own. Inevitably, literary criticism will come to see that literature is always both.

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Trying to do something important: a couple of thoughts on ambition in a work of art

October 27, 2010
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Melville worries that his ambition will fail, that his picture of the whale will “remain unpainted at the last.” He is always aware he’s always on the verge of the whole thing breaking down, but the ambition is there. Beating underneath. It acts as the will to will it onward, the drive to make it work, a promise to try to do something great, the stakes that are high enough to make it worth while even if the whole thing fails.

Ambition, all by itself, makes the work a thing of value.

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An Asshole in the Service of Heaven

October 21, 2010
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My aesthetic test for music when I was 13 still applied: if I play a song one hundred times in a row, and, on the last playing, it still has an effect, then it is part of my synaptic hit parade, and can never be vanquished.

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A Beautifully Scrambled Egg

October 19, 2010
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Mathews is just talking about how to cook eggs. He’s paying really close attention to both the delicate things eggs are the delicate process of cooking them. What for? Because it’s frickin’ awesome. Shut up and enjoy the eggs.

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The Inward Soul: Dickinson and St. Theresa of Avila

October 5, 2010
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There is an inwardness so vast, so total, that it has a true integrity—not the pretentiousness of artistic temper, not the vanity of professional mysticism, not the neurosis of social anxiety disorder, but a forthrightness, an honorable, hourly withdrawal from the world that seems, for lack of a better word—ecstatic.

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Using the Tools of Postmodernism

October 2, 2010
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Part of the 20th century revolution in poetry was an interest in parody, pastiche, send ups, cut ups, a constant recapitulation of tired tropes in such a way as to reinvigorate them. If we look at poetry aesthetics as tools rather than as truths, then everything becomes available to us—all the thousands of years of utterance.

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