David Orr On Greatness, Or Word Vomit
The delovely and delightful Amy King tagged me to comment on the essay by David Orr that appeared in the recent New York Times' Sunday Book Review. If you haven't read it and can manage to get through it without vomiting a little in your mouth, here's the link. If you don't feel like tasting your own bile, let me just boil it down for you: Orr contends that John Ashbery is the last "great" poet, then writes nearly 3,000 words wondering if any of today's contemporary poets can be "great." Wait...I really need to go throw up.
Here's an expanded version of what I wrote at Amy's blog:
Orr’s “essay” exhausts me. This kind of introspective masturbation masquerading as literary “critique” bores the shit out of me. Chances are the poets I consider great wouldn’t pass Orr’s sniff test, and thank god for that. I’ve been writing poetry for about 20 years now and I know that some of what I've written has moved, motivated and provoked readers. That’s great enough for me. My body of work will live on as long as there is a world wide web, since that’s where most of my work resides, or will eventually.
Like irascible Bill Knott (who I disagree with on poetics, but quite admire for his chutzpah in getting his work in front everyone and not caving to press whims), I plan to put all my work online one day and then the world can read it, not read it, decide if it’s great or mediocre. Only our egos and fear of death make us so manic to find our place in “history” and secure our “greatness.” Orr’s essay is just another in a long line of “death of poetry” pieces that come around every year or so. It’s another tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. No one died and left David Orr the arbiter of greatness. Write on, poets.
Oh, and check out Reb Livingston's take on "greatness." I would say both Reb and Amy are great, but I'm sure Orr would disagree.