Aug 11, 2010

Sharon Olds, Anis Shivani, Romantic Love, and What Makes Poetry Good

If you're a regular here, please forgive my self-plagiarizing on the photos. Surely they are relevant.

As for text, here is Anis Shivani, positing at Huffington Post that 15 admired American authors are overrated. He’s hardly the first to try such a thing.

Anis Shivani: The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers (PHOTOS) - Thomas Pynchon, Books

Among Shivani's overrated writers is poet Sharon Olds. Here is a Sharon Olds poem that I find interesting in a number of ways.

Sex Without Love - Poem by Sharon Olds

After you've read both Shivani and Olds, please respond. Feel free to bring into the discussion Yeats’ poem “When You Are Old,” posted here on Monday: When You are Old- - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More.

Yes, I feel as if I’m dangling bait, but I'm not sure what I expect to catch or what I think myself.



Pasadena Adjacent said...


The Promise of Meaning
By Mark Z. Danielewski

Writers who do not read poetry cannot be taken seriously.
Which goes (self-evidently) for poets, (just as evidently) for novelists, philosophers, historians and (perhaps less evidently) for jotters of laws, judgments, appraisals, prescriptions, blogs, tweets, text messages, menus, directions and grocery lists.
Without a slow and careful consideration of how words move, form, diminish, connect, enact, deceive, sway, detach, destroy, allude, reattach, imply, fail, obscure, seduce, reveal, relax, undo, hold, tease, estrange and clash, achieved through the patient sounding out of meter and sense, the watchful measuring of what inheres and what escapes, writers can no more know what they mean than what they intend. They will not understand how in what they are writing they are already written and therefore have as yet written nothing at all.
Words are just words. Poetry is something else.
Because poetry is at the heart of the matter.
Because poetry is the heart of the matter.
Because poetry depends on what we cannot do without.
Because poetry defines what we are without.
Because poetry defends why without still matters when we’re no longer around.

Barbaro said...

I found the author's tone pretty nauseating. Would he have done any better picking the century's great writers decades ago?

I don't want to get started on MFA programs, so I'll just say this: if there's anything sillier than a workshop, it's the myth of a lone author relentlessly pursuing his singular vision. Writers have always relied on criticism of one form or another. Not to do so is simply to be arrogant, not "artistic."

PJ said...

I read the HuffPo article and started to yawn after the second, no first, paragraph. If you want to read succinct, snarky talk about writing read the Salon review of Andrew Morton's genius - not - in his biography of Angelina Jolie.

I wish I understood the need writers have to cannabalize each other, it must be the tasty words although, occasionally, I read something that resonates with me, like the article that confirmed what I had been feeling about Alice Walker all along:

PA, writing, it's a dichotomy? I'm checking out Slake. Yes, I have lots of time off my foot.

Thanks to you, B52, I'm learning to love poetry again. Reading Olds' poem I'm reminded of sex for its own sake.

Brenda's Arizona said...

I love PA's comment/post!
Shivani digs to piss everyone off, in all sectors. An equal opportunity "I hate this".
I leave Shivani's rating thinking 'what a bitter person'. He'd probably complain about the shades of blue in the sky.

Banjo52 said...

PA, "WYSIWYG"?? But obviously I like all that endorsement of poetry and its various incarnations.

"Because poetry depends on what we cannot do without.
Because poetry defines what we are without.
Because poetry defends why without still matters when we’re no longer around."

Some of these claims will raise eyebrows, I predict, because they're abstract, or some such thing. But whether or not I could explain them, I like them.

Paula, "cannibalizing each other." Great! And do they ever.

Barbaro studied under William Logan, a critic who's famous for littering the floor with leftover poets' parts. I see there's a comment from Barbaro at Hardsleeper43; I wonder if he'll mention Logan.

Paula, "time off my foot"?? And thanks so much for the good words. I hope that's what I'm doing, without asking anyone to love particular poems or agree with my points.

Banjo52 said...

Barbaro, right. Hindsight is 20-20 (I just now made that up). I marvel that a guy of his small renown is trying to topple pillars. How do you see William Logan in this context?

"Writers have always relied on criticism of one form or another." I can see how that might be true, but I don't have the specifics. Do you?

PJ said...

I have a stress fracture from not paying attention when I was trying to get a shot. It's healing but it'll be a little while longer before I'm able to be walking about whenever I please.

Pasadena Adjacent said...


it's a computer programing term.... what you see is what you get

I like the linguistic play in it

Pasadena Adjacent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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