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Friday, September 14, 2007

What Is This Thing Called Modern Art

I’ve always had a special place in the perforated pump that is my heart for full-on conservative bloviation. John Waters telling Irish Times readers that young Irish men commit suicide because they don’t go to mass enough, Norman Podhoretz polishing the nukes he wants dropped on Iran, Mark Steyn blaming disability legislation for the fact that people in wheelchairs died in the Twin Towers when of course they should never have been given jobs in offices with stairs in the first place (where’s a Bulgarian orphanage when you need one), to give just three examples from the last few days: yes, there’s nothing I like better in my Daily Puke than a restorative reminder of human pettiness and stupidity, lest I ever lapse into the heresy of meliorism.

So even though the decline of American formal verse has yet to cause any godless Irish teenagers to hang themselves (that we know of), it’s good to see a piece by James Matthew Wilson in the current issue of the Contemporary Poetry Review draw the following vector from ‘progressive’ art to Kim Addonizio to blue movies with a proposal en route for a ‘history of modern art’ that I for one would love to read:

Most confessional poets, like the realist fiction writers of early twentieth century, offer in their work that mild frisson most contemporary persons have come to identify as the controversial power of “progressive” minded art (a history of modern art lies hidden in the curious fact that pornographic movies used to be called “art films”). When we read details of some sexually abusive midget uncle on whose life a poet’s eyes have lingered for a free verse strophe, we are intended to experience both indignation, uncomfortable arousal, and finally a warm sense of self-congratulation that we can stomach the “great art” of a tortured modern genius.

{Quotation ends}

I'll raise you one Dana Gioia to all your midget perverts. Modern art? Bring it on.

1 comment:

Ms Baroque said...

know, it's too easy. It really is. He never in the course of the whole article gives a single example of how prosody achieves this effect, or how free verse fails. It all amounts to "it's harder so it must by definition be better" - which is bollocks, because a ton and a half of people simply think in bad rhyme!

I particularly love the part where he says that even if a poem is banal to the point of meaninglessness, and boring as your granddad's old socks to boot, you still have to respect it because it's in metre and means someone made the effort. See it is a shame, because he simply ends up undermining his own argument, and in such big words you can hardly follow it anyway.

Jesus! I wish CPR had contributors' seminars.

Wait for my piece on Louis MacNeice next month. It'll be different, I promise.