Thursday, January 27, 2005

Twice yesterday saw honesty invoked as a defining virtue: A. Alvarez credits Alice Munro with the "bedrock" form of the quality in the NYRB, and Scott McLemee cites one editor as saying that Helen Vendler possesses greater quantities of the quality than most poets, at least when it comes to other poets: Said John Leonard, formerly of the Times Book Review, "I learned the hard way that you couldn't trust a poet to tell you if he was the best friend or the worst enemy of whoever he was reviewing."

Honesty? or impossible standards. Here's more about Vendler:
She says she "wanders the earth" asking people if they know of any major 30-year-old poets she should read. "And they all say, 'Not really.' I don't know if we're in a lull. There are competent poets, but nobody taking the world by storm the way Ginsberg did, or Lowell did. I worry about it."
I mean, I can believe Jorie Graham would diss her students, but I admit I'm worried that Vendler is concerned that there are no poet celebrities at the moment. Who knew about Hopkins when he was 30? Yeats, Auden, sure.

Anyway. I know there's something to using honesty as an evaluative rubric (can you tell I spent time among schoolteachers?), but given the widespread suppression of dissent from our shameful government's policies, it seems so out of whack to reserve the term for the careful delineation of hypocrisy and vulnerability in human relationships, or for serving, as I've said before, as a fiduciary for cultural capital.

Jordan - #




I'm Jordan Davis.
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