10 October 2006


I find it odd that what Ron Silliman seems to like most about Elizabeth Treadwell's critique of his blurb of a book, Verso, by Patty McCarthy, is that the creation of a controversy draws more visitors to Silliman's blog. Is that why we do this? To attract more readers, more viewers?

Ron's contention is understandable, i.e. that his blurb was taken out of context, that it was edited, etc. Still, it was there, in print, and he, along with the publisher of the book, bear responsibility. Here is the blurb:
What if Frank O'Hara had been, literally, a court jester? Or, at the very least, tutor of the King's children? Those are questions that linger in the imagination as one reads Pattie McCarthy's Verso. McCarthy strikes a new tone in & for her poetry. At the same time, however, all of the concerns — with history, naming, gender, etymology & referentiality — that have always animated her work rage on unabated… She makes the membrane between the visible and its opposite her focal point…Pattie McCarthy has been one of our most intellectually ambitious poets—a tradition she shares with Rachel Blau DuPlessis & with H.D. And indeed with the likes of Pound & Olson. We can still count the number of women who attempt writing on such a scale on the fingers of our hands. So it is worth noting & celebrating this addition to that roster. — Ron Silliman
There are several reasons that I think, if Ron had been a little more careful, he wouldn't have allowed this blurb out, and I'm happy to think it's not really what he thinks. But it's out, and my sense is that the blurb is unfortunate in a big way, for several reasons. Even if one accepts the concept that writing on "such a scale" is the thing that is needed, what is "such a scale?" Doesn't that need to be specified a little more? Also, if it's anything like writing with an epic vision, or a broad sense of the possibilities of poetry, or in a way that makes a reader re-think the nature of poetry, or even in a way that strikes a reader as significantly different from what she or he has read before, then
1. it's not true that we can count the women doing it on our hands
2. there aren't all that many men doing it
3. there's no need for such a canon-affirming, divisive comment as this blurb seems to be
4. it does what I don't like blurbs to do, i.e. direct attention away from the work a reader is hopefully about to read
Ron does some explaining of his blurb, and his point of view, in a recent post to his blog, but there he does some more damage as well, or at least I don't at all share his sense that Treadwell's tone on her blog is strident and exhibits a kind of hatred. I found her post had grace, wit, and generosity, though it did include a deserved slap.

I love Ron, & I love Elizabeth, but in this instance I'll stand with Elizabeth.


At 11:31 PM, Blogger csperez said...

hi charles,

linked here from elizabeth's blog, and just wanted to invite you to visit my blog, where i have a short post on the history of the blog that is pretty funny / interesting.




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