OVER MY HEAD

1.
Pairing odd combinations of
images — many of them
not even fresh
or original — is not
poetry, but gamesmanship,
verbal solitaire. Poetry
is not about scratching
your head, but feeding it.
2.
This I am fairly comfortable with:
I have a good background in
dialectics; I understand
polarizations, juxtapositions,
pastiche techniques, quotational devices, etc.
in music….What I don’t understand is this:
why those words
rather than others? Why
are these two images juxtaposed, rather
than two others? What criteria
could possibly be articulated
to differentiate “good”
language poetry from
“bad” language poetry?
 3.
I have no idea
what’s wrong with me
these days. I seem
to have strayed far,
far from the path
where poetry is concerned. 
4.
There is a laziness to these poems,
a fake rigor — short sparse lines
that imply lyric tension, but feel
like no more than cocktail coaster
jottings. Lots of vague
pseudo-connections,
hocus-pocus, imagistic
smoke and mirrors
— and to what end?
5.
How could a listener tell by ear
whether it’s Stockhausen’s
latest masterpiece
or some configuration
of monkeys at a piano?
How would I know
whether what I am looking at
is a masterpiece of language poetry
or unrelated sentences
spliced together on a page,
between which I am supposed
to invent connections
and deep meanings?
6.
I can be a bit of a snob, you see;
I have a strong appreciation
for poetry of many sorts,
and consider myself
to have fairly well developed taste
in modern music, art,
and literature.
7.
Well good luck to those
who like this book.
It made me feel disjointed,
even a bit
empty. I don’t get it.
8.
All my poems start
with a feeling, not a
word. They are part
of my life and in that way
give me a feeling
of wholeness- each
in its own way.
9.
When you get thoughts
or feelings like this
from pure nonsense,
then it’s GOOD pure
nonsense, fun pure
nonsense, admirable pure
nonsense. Of course
you might be kidding
yourself, like a child
playing with blocks
and pretending she’s
raising a tower to the sky –
but is that a terrible or
unhappy child? Should we
take her blocks away?
Or … is it saying
we go into a noisy club,
and they’ve got some sparkles
blowing in an updraft,
and that’s exciting; the particles
look so nervous and afraid?
And nervous and afraid is part
of the fun of going out to raves
and things like that? Or is she
pointing out that glitz, trendy
decoration, is not just decoration,
but also something crazy, scary
and scared? Does she mean
ordinary dust particles, caught
in an updraft, catch the light
and shine like glitzy ornaments,
one identical seeming particle
next to another? Or is the section
nonsense pure and simple
just as I said to begin with?
10.
You can find ideas like these
in various idealistic philosophers,
but not in so short a space,
and not put forward so gently.
Because language poetry
is constantly interrupted by
nonsense, you don’t have to believe
anything in it, and so you’re in a
special place, where the theories
you feel don’t make sense
can still show whatever magic
they may have in them –
and all without hurting anybody.
Idealistic ideas like these
dominated the nineteenth century,
and did a lot of harm.
11.
But after awhile, just as Sudoku
gets more difficult, this felt
like more work than I was willing
to invest. I just don’t have that
in me, to understand
what these mean. I am too
simple for these
complexities.
12.
Language poetry is poetry
that allows itself to include
nonsense, passages that don’t
mean anything coherent or
paraphrasable. This goes back to
“hey nonny” in the old Elizabethan
songs, and comes right up to rock
band names like Jefferson Airplane
or The Grateful Dead. It happens,
by accident or on purpose,
in very beloved modern poets
like Dylan Thomas. Still, some people
are against it on principle. Those people
can’t be talked to, but they’re politically active,
hence some of the one- and two-star reviews.
Let them go.
13.
this seems like so much bool shit: ?
am i wrong? read this crap- non referentiality-
seems right wing- ayn rynd?

14.

critics are to art
as are pidgeons to statues-
i finbd armantout’s poetry- like ashbery’s-
counter productive?
15.
I’m fine with stream-of-consciousness
writing, but that doesn’t describe it
either. Quite simply, I was lost.
16.
Language poets were once
a cultural rebellion against Post-
Modern poets, but have now
become more mainstream,
and of them, she’s known
as the best. The essay explained
how her poems are often cryptic
with double meanings and turns
that are meant to wake up
the reader, to shock them
out of numb
reality.
17.
I’ve experienced the pathos
myself, I agree it’s inexplicable,
and I’m glad someone else saw it
and wrote a poem
about it. 

(composed of the remarks of commenters on the Amazon page for Rae Armantrout’s Versed)

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