Flummery Festival

Mark Halliday

Vol. 33, 2011

 

“Bad, good, these are subjective terms that tend to be wielded as weapons by the powerful and the privileged, as I pointed out yesterday,” said Vijal.

“No beer for you,” I said.

Eileen said, “Both Cole Swensen and David St. John reject evaluation of poems in their introductions. St. John says ‘all aspects and variants of hybridization in American poetry are of equal and lasting value.’”

“A breathtakingly mindless statement,” I said.

“St. John says, ‘Let the gates of the Garden stand open.’”

“That’s when the garden fills up with weeds, and rabbits eat your vegetables.”

Eileen said, “And here’s what Cole Swensen says about evaluation: Such hybridity is of course in itself no guarantee of excellence, and the decentralizing influences cited above make it harder to achieve consensus or even to maintain stable critical criteria; instead, these factors put more responsibility on individual readers to make their own assessments…”

“In other words,” I said, “she refuses responsibility for evaluation of poems, leaving it up to us. Though what she really means is that she prefers her evaluation to be covert. Covert, disingenuous evaluation is when you select certain writers and certain poems for your anthology or press or journal, or you hire certain writers for your department, and not others, and you pretend the operative criteria are not aesthetic. The alternative possibility would be that she truly doesn’t care about the poetic power of poems, and decides which poets to support and recommend based on other criteria, such as who is friends with whom.”

 


 

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