Jacob Silverman tackles the niceness epidemic besieging literary criticism at the moment. Where have the hatchet jobs gone? Is social media’s “communalism” robbing critics of their fangs? Each time a publication refuses to print a negative review, the act amounts to “a victory for a publicist, but not for readers,” he writes. (Just a few notes: Silverman’s piece is based on a blog post he wrote recently; Emma Straub has responded on her own blog; and, for what it’s worth, our own Michael Bourne’s recent review of Richard Ford’s Canada was pretty toothy.)
“I began to wonder: what would a manifesto for bad poetry look like? Would it differ either superficially or deeply from the art’s graver manifestos? It really wouldn’t have to. It would merely have to persuade, and persuasion sounds very much the same whether it is honest or dishonest. If it was any good it would hold great attractiveness as a snappy piece of writing, but, if followed, it would be certain to produce bad poetry. Some harmless sophistry. In this it would be more effective than any positive manifesto, because, if guided well, no-one who sets out to write a bad poem is going to accidentally write an excellent one.” Erik Kennedy lays out a manifesto for bad poetry, titled “Precepts for Perfection in Poetry,” for The Rumpus. For a counterpoint, pair with our own Nick Ripatrazone‘s look at very good and very sad poetry, “The Saddest Poem Ever Written.”
“I am so grateful for this tool in my writer’s toolkit. It has liberated both me and my texts from an overbearing approach to ‘getting it right.’” Cara Benson for the Amazon Author Insights blog (full disclosure: Amazon helps us pay the bills over here!) on the benefits of writing and revising by hand. And she’s not the only one who likes to go manual.
Recommended Reading: In which a great translator takes on a nearly impossible project: “Schmidt violates the rules of orthography and punctuation throughout the book, and its sprawling conversations cover James Joyce, trees, magic, the moon, and Xerxes, among many other things. After getting Zettel’s Traum out of his system, Schmidt would go on to write his best works. ‘I had to write it,’ he said. ‘And such a book had to be written sometime.'”
“‘There is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science,’ [Thomas Jefferson] wrote in an 1874 report, ‘which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.’ Thus the Library Of Congress’s mandate expanded: it would acquire anything and everything of importance … By the late 19th century, the LOC had become a kind of national brain trust, a heritage of information that aspired to timelessness.” This piece on the Library of Congress and its internet progress (or lack thereof) is fascinating and thorough. Go and spend some time with the digital archive, there are only around seven million gigabytes of information for you to thumb through.
“There are dangers for an artist in any academic environment,” says former Poetry editor Christian Wiman, who now teaches at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. “Academia rewards people who know their own minds and have developed an ironclad confidence in speaking them. That kind of assurance is death for an artist.”