Jun 8, 2008

reading poetry with a barcode scanner

I've dabbled in randomesque poetry from time to time, so I get its aesthetic. But, to be good, even randomness has to mean. Joan Houlihan, reviewing Matthea Harvey's "Flatland," explains:
If “to read” means to follow with your eyes, one word after another, until a text becomes comprehensible, then I cannot say I’ve read Modern Life. If, on the other hand, “to read” means to scan, in the sense of reading labels, like a grocery store’s optical reader, or if it means to observe various-sized and colored containers without being able to see what’s inside, or if it means to skim, admiring the typeface design and visual placement on the page, or if it means to obtain data from a storage medium (the page), and transfer said data to another storage medium (the brain) via the movement of eyes, then I can say I have read this book. But what does such a reading mean? I can’t say I enjoyed it, nor can I say I didn’t enjoy it, since each word, then each poem, overwrites the previous one. Was I changed by the experience? I don’t know. I don’t think I had an experience.

With only other poets left to read poets, with critics at a loss to read or evaluate poems (how to read or evaluate a poem not meant for a reader of the first type, above?), and with a blurb-storm that blows over the landscape with such force the landscape is itself is in danger of being obliterated, poetry has entered its Golden Age of Logorrhea.
That's the diagnosis. What's the cure?

[via AL Daily]

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