Friday, September 19, 2008

iTunes has something called iTunes University, something like that, which offers a bunch of college courses as podcasts. I listened to a talk by Harold Bloom today, How to Read a Poem, a class he gave in 2006. I really enjoyed listening to it, which I did not expect. I find his ideas interesting enough but gosh his writing is tiresome. the vocabulary of his writing chimes uncomfortably with awkward words. trope as a verb: yech. I mean trope used as a verb thruout the book, seemingly on every page: yech. and his Canon of Western Civ, I do not want to hear about that. I mean, writ on 2 stone tablets or what? he is such an edifice. the lecture was quite charming, tho. I assumed that he would be demonstrative and overbearing but instead he was quiet and thoughtful. his lecture (1st in a series) was a close reading of a Wallace Stevens poem. he kept apologizing about his tangents, but his tangents were worth trailing along, and showed a more interesting process than the plangency of professional critic. his tangents tended to include close friends, Paul de Man, Kenneth Burke, John Hollander... I am forgetting a few... Bloom in the swirl of interest. so, as I say, it was surprisingly entertaining to listen to him. his humour is dry and self-deprecating. and Stevens is a great poet. the pungent array of evocations that occurs in Stevens' work is enticing and strange. the guy was a drastic weirdo in a way that we do not, perhaps, really need to overthink. Bloom mentions Holly Stevens saying that her family never had anyone to dinner, ever. Bloom did not emphasize Stevens' oddity, but I was minded of, oddly, Lovecraft in the sense of a highly-charged intellectual and imaginative world, and a strangely bereft daily one. but anyway, I got a sense of a love of poetry that I do not get so much from Bloom's writings. that critical world of his seems demarcated and limited, whereas as he spoke of Stevens and other poets (but not the so-called confessional poets, Lowell et al., who he declared a distaste for), the pleasure of poetry shone thru. years ago, if I might follow a tangent, a neatly timed snowstorm arrived in time to have work called off. unexpectedly, I had the day off. I read Bloom's book on Stevens. I spent the day at it, reading the poems Bloom referred to, as well as hunting down other works that Bloom brought into the discussion. it was delicious to do this, especially under a non-academic directive. I think that is the difference between his writing and his lecture. on one side is something more like career positioning, wherein his declarations provide structure for his world place. in class, this one at least, he is not asserting that so much, certified as he is, but instead he is allowed to speak his pleasures, simply that essential. I will take Olson's canon, because it is quirky, personal, and directed from his personal craze. Bloom's was a public predictability, just one more book. I think it might be nice to break the academic hold on poetry and the critique thereof. poetry is not a tribal code, it is a personal lighthouse on the edge of something wildly fascinating. so okay, all you teaching poetry in college: get out, you are not happy, your light aint working. poetry is important, unloose, and a pleasure for the mind. if you do not sign that contract, you should not be talking about it. yes, I am just yapping...
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