Damning with (Very) Faint Praise

James Longenbach takes down the New Formalists via his review of Mary Jo Salter's new book. Longenbach's review in the NY Times rightly says that the wars between the New Formalists & the Language Poets now ". . . feel dated, part of the niggling history of taste rather than the grand history of art." He then goes on to provide a brief anatomy of poetic repression using Salter's poems as the (too beautiful) corpse. Longenbach is concerned with poetic repression born of the need to appear wise, to deny grief in the service of a narrow appreciation for beauty; my own beef with the NFs includes this, but extends to their exclusion of history & the political from their poetry. Just too messy, you know.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

3 thoughts on “Damning with (Very) Faint Praise”

  1. the classical battles of tin soldiers is watchable
    because these artificial wars between the buttwipes and the hersheysquirts are so removed. in some ways it is a return to prepubescence and that charms even
    as the participants(often expensively educated) will seriously war with other generally likable others
    feeling genuine. edward mycue

  2. I don’t know, Ed, I’ve been around some of those expensively educated twits & I’d have to dispute your phrase “generally likable.”

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