poets gone wild: Rita Dove excoriates Helen Vendler

December 24 17:09 2011 Print This Article

I have’t seen beef like this since Nas summarily squashed Jay-Z on “Ether”.  In this instance, poet and writer Rita Dove chews Helen Vendler into bite sized chunks and purges herself of the spittle. Dove renders an utterly devastating, maybe even career ending, blow to Vendler. If Vendler re-emerges, she’ll come with the scars and blemishes earned from all the misdirected blows at Dove. As always, here’s a taste:

Assuredly, many acclaimed poets are no match to Shakespeare—probably not a one, not even Walt Whitman. But The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry is not meant to be an in-depth scholarly study of pick-your-ism; it is a gathering of poems its editor finds outstanding for a variety of reasons, and by no means all of them in adherence to my own aesthetic taste buds; my intent was to offer many of the best poems bound into books between 1900 and 2000 and to lend a helping hand to those readers wishing to strike out on their own beyond this selection. Part of the problem with the phenomenon one could call poetry politics is the reluctance of many scholars to allow for choice without the selfish urge to denigrate beyond whatever doesn’t fit their own aesthetics; literary history is rife with stories of critics cracking the whip over the heads of ducking artists, critics who in their hubris believe they should be the only ones permitted to render verdicts in the public courts of literature.

So goddamn refreshing. And this:

 In the same breath, Vendler—no slouch when it comes to lumping poets together by race—makes quick work of dismembering Gwendolyn Brooks, dismissing my description of Brooks’s “richly innovative” early poems as “hyperbole,” perhaps because I dared to compare those poems to “the best male poets of any race.” Evidently the 1950 Pulitzer committee thought highly enough of Ms. Brooks to award her the prize in poetry, at a time when there was little talk of diversity in America and the expression “multiculturalism” had yet to enter the public discourse. Analogous praise today, however, amounts in Dame Vendler’s eyes to nothing but “hype.”

Yeah. It’s all like that. Rita Dove is just that good. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

 

 

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