Nelson Mandela 1918–2013...more
Posts by: David Biespiel
If war is a defeat for poetry, what is diplomacy? Like poetry, diplomacy involves craft and discretion, finesse and poise, skill and subtlety. It requires canniness, deliberation, presence of mind, and shrewdness, as well as providence and wisdom.
I’ve been thinking about what poetry might tell us about the landmark deal the United States and five other world powers made this week with Iran to curb its nuclear program in an effort to prevent Tehran from building nuclear bombs....more
New book reports postmodernists forced to write in rhyme and meter
Exposing widespread abuses faced by beginning poets writing in postmodern verses, a new book titled “Between the Lines,” revealed that poets who write post-experimental poetry are forced by their betters to write, sometimes as often as fifteen times a day, completely in rhyme and meter....more
There comes a time in the process of writing a poem when you find yourself putting the reader’s interests and desires ahead of your own as the poet. Not that the reader is a potted plant, I mean. Because the reader is sometimes hostile, other times skeptical, and still other times easily moved, or hopeful, or open, or predisposed, willing to be carried forth....more
As with the myth of America, America’s poets believe a poem should go from rags to riches. And yet, why so much surprise when it actually happens?
There is more to American poetry than its genial and hospitable prairie lands. And yet the poetry of its postmodern coasts all too often acts like an immigrant who is naive about the nation’s enigmas and repugnances....more
Every since I wrote this weekend with the news that I’m stepping down, after 11 years, as a columnist on poetry for my local paper, I’ve received some very nice farewells. I mean, very nice. One woman wrote me to say she had read and kept each and every one of the pieces in binders marked On Poetry....more
We live in a world where whenever the discussion turns to humanitarian assistance or military intervention what is meant by that is American assistance and American intervention.
There are good reasons for this fact. It was the United States that pushed for the creation of the United Nations in 1945 and then insisted on becoming the organization’s host....more
I mean, his [Heaney's] verse is under my skin. His verbs are inside my veins. His metaphors are in my nervous system. His moral clarity is a light inside my own, shall we say, republic of conscience....more
Mark Edmundson’s take down of contemporary American poetry, “Poetry Slam,” (currently behind the paywall) in this month’s issue of Harper’s, is not so bad really. He’s right about the insularity of the American poetic idiom, the stranglehold of deconstructive theory on the imaginations of younger American poets, the influence of William Wordsworth for two hundred years on American poetry’s sense of ambition as a private rather than public art, the proliferation of teaching the writing of poetry and therefore the difficulty in discerning what might be the, quote-unquote, poetry of the age — notwithstanding that we will never know who those poets are or what those poems are for certain until the age is over....more
No one can know for sure what literary historians will make of it, least of all me as I pound out an editorial about poetry every week. But if I were a betting man, I would wager that the most significant literary event this month is not going to be the Poetry Foundation’s splashy new anthologies for school teachers....more
Yesterday was the 56th anniversary of the day that U.S. customs agents seized some 500 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl on the grounds of obscenity. Yesterday and today, the Supreme Court of the United States heard two cases regarding marriage. The first one yesterday, regarding California Proposition 8, addressed the right to marry the person you love....more
I’ve never much gone in for shoot ‘em up movies. I’ve never seen Terminator, other than the most famous clip (“I’ll be back”). I can’t stomach Quentin Tarantino movies or, his precursor, Sam Peckinpah. I went to see No Country for Old Men because my 17-year-old son kept taunting me that I couldn’t consider myself an educated person if I didn’t, and I was worried he might be right....more
About to board a flight from Portland to New York, about to meet with the jury that’s been convening for 12 months by e-mail, Skype, and face to face meeting, to select a recipient from the five finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award....more
Read poetry, what else? That’s the greatest military maneuver in the ‘Poetry Is Dead’ war, isn’t it? It’s where the odds are longest, the risk greatest, kind of like Lee at Chancellorsville....more
Kelly Clarkson’s Inaugural Song Means the Death of Country Music
Inaugural country singer Kelly Clarkson said that her story is America’s story.
If that’s the case, America should be slightly concerned. Ms. Clarkson is a walking example of the American dream — as she eloquently puts it, “the American story is in many ways my story — I even played Brenda Lee in a TV show called “American Dreams.’”
She has overcome numerous obstacles, struggled against opposition both internal and external — in order to excel in country western singing, a field that may very well be obsolete....more
A funny thing happened on the way to President Obama’s second inauguration Monday. The president’s speech and Richard Blanco’s poem got reversed.
Broadly speaking, one’s expectations of political rhetoric is that, at its worst, it reduces complex argument to slogans and platitudes or, at its best, that it singles out constituencies and individual citizens in order to focus on the day-to-day concerns that society can address....more