Jun 2, 2010

Kim Addonizio, "The First Line Is Deepest." Shredding.

The First Line is the Deepest by Kim Addonizio : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

Watch it Shred!: "The Monster"

You might want to skip the first minute of the video, though the whole thing is only 2+ minutes. Am I just odd for seeing connections among the parts of today's post: Addonizio, Shredding, Teaching, Condescending, Catching in the Rye, and more? (Addonizio's poem is full of witty allusions. We could have a contest to see who catches the most).

Maybe I am taking Altadena Hiker’s recommended video too seriously. But try to imagine how much professorial arrogance I've witnessed as a student and teacher. The stories I could tell. I'd like to think I haven't been part of it, but no guarantees.

I think it’s easy to kill writing for a kid who has interest and potential, but also some problems and pretensions to work through. I'm fairly sure there's one response to that I don't buy: if he's a real writer, he can't be stopped.

People can be stopped. Not all, I’m sure, but enough.

It is not the right of a (temporarily) hotshot writer or teacher to kill in a beginner an activity that might serve him well through his life, even if it's "only" journal-keeping or painting water colors in the city park. Or blogging! How many bloggers drop this line to a photography blogger: “That’s the most trite postcard picture I’ve seen in years, Wally. Bad day at the office?”

Producing art of any kind is a naked adventure. Your zits show, and you know it, but you probably feel you must cover up. So a developing writer/artist grows into one defense or another—most likely arrogant bravado or defiant, sullen, dramatic withdrawal or terminal, genuine shyness.

So when I see (temporarily) successful writers sniggering at the kind of stuff they themselves used to, or still do, produce, I want to smack 'em, or at least tell 'em to get off their high horses and pick on someone their own size.

I must say, I wonder how many of them could/would engage in a project of showing their youthful, disgraceful stuff. I have looked at my youthful crap a few times, and I'm not sure there's enough money on earth (especially in recent months) to pay me to show it. It's a fun idea, but I guess I'm not mentally healthy enough to indulge.

Back to my paragraph one above: let me add that the few dozen writers I've gotten to know (just a bit and only professionally, as visiting writers, or at conferences and such) do not seem to follow the model of "look-at-the-alienated-deep-greatness-of-me" (ADGOM?), established by, say, Hemingway or Plath. As a crowd, the writers I’ve met in the last twenty years or so have been friendly, down to earth, and eager to help young people. They've also tried to be socially comfortable at obligatory tea or beer gatherings, which would make me cringe if I were in their place. In fact, I cringe on their behalf.

It's almost disappointing. Hey! Where are all the mean but brilliant psychos I read about in college?

Then a mean psycho shows up, of course, with or without the brilliance. But it's rare, at least in my experience. Of course, I'm seeing them in contexts where they could establish nasty reputations they wouldn't want, now that readings, mentoring and guru-hood are so lucrative. In any case, they show up and behave. I think they acknowledge the loneliness of the work and are glad for any kind of companionship and recognition. A couple of them have said so.

How would Hemingway have fared on the college circuit?

Yes, I wonder if they are the same, kind, well-adjusted folks they seem, and I doubt it. I’ve probably never met a well-adjusted adult, according to my definition. But that's not the topic, and that’s not where art comes from.

These professional settings are all I've got to go on. And I can think of only one time when a celebrity writer made an ass of himself by scoffing at a student-something, a question, a comment, or student writing — though some of those comments and questions might have deserved a metaphorical slap in the head.

Maybe the kinder, gentler America has arrived, at least in writerly circles. I doubt that, but in any case, I’m not going to applaud the inflicting of middle-aged issues, or the issues that come with (temporary) success, upon the earnest young.

The arrogant young? That’s another story.



Ken Mac said...

let's see photos of some those closed Detroit joints! (That's my hometown, I so want to come shoot the urban ruins)

Anonymous said...

Well, go shoot some blight for Ken Mac, for goodness sakes.

A couple of points: We are not watching writers stick pins in a 17-year old kid. The video was from the perspective of an adult who used his work from a decade or two before to springboard a conversation on what defines good writing from bad. (Sedaris was rather lovely, I thought.)

You mentioned blogs and the supportive comments that generally appear. That's because a blog reader exercises choice -- if you don't like it, you don't go back, or you don't finish reading, or you leave a comment that says it's sunny today or your car broke down. A teacher doesn't have that luxury.

Banjo52 said...

I'll look into it, Ken. There are some happier shots now and then (today's are on the River Walk), plus April 10 and 13. Also some river shots last fall, but they're pretty touristy.

You wouldn't have trouble finding forlorn places. But a lot of beauties still stand, and no one talks about that, it seems.

Are you aware of the new movement to tear down a lot of the vacant buildings and replace them with green space? Of course, even tearing 'em down costs money.

Banjo52 said...

AH, all true. But I watched and listened to it again, and I still have trouble with the attitude of Mr. Powell--and maybe Mr. Flynn, though he's certainly been given a difficult chance at kindness or diplomacy. Has he been set up by the filmmaker?

Once again, you provide fodder for a Banjo post. We'll see.

Have you seen the "Moments" film or the Addonizio poem or the Monster Shredder video? Seems to me they're doing something at least somewhat original.

Babzy.B said...

thanks for the visit on my blog ;)

Anonymous said...

She's good; I had fun with that poem.

To one of your points, I always think I'm the most messed up one in a roomful of adults. But then as I work the room, I learn the shocking truth -- suicide attempts, chronic migraines, clinical depression and on and on. And it seems as if almost everyone is under a doctor's care and on some form of psychoactive drug.

At least I write my own prescriptions.

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