Friday, July 22, 2005

Billy C

Kasey and Jonathan are really on to something. Without committing myself to any particular homologies or analogies, note what happens when we replace "Kenny G" with "Billy Collins", "music" with "poetry", and "Pat Metheny" with "Ron Silliman" in this (registration required) very funny interview piece on "Mr. Gorelick" (his detractors seem to love calling him by his real name) by Mike Zwerin at Culture Kiosk.

Millions and millions of units sold. Collins' success gets a lot of poetry people mad. [Nobody really] come[s] close in sales. Collins can't really say what's different between his style and [everyone else's], but he does hint, accompanied by expressive eye-contact, that his poetry must be better than theirs because he sells more books than they do. I am not making this up.

An angry critique of Collins by the poet Ron Silliman has recently been widely circulated on the internet*. Silliman is correct but he wastes his time and energy. The poetry isn't good enough to deserve an intelligent analysis. There's nothing new about the success of dumb poetry. The fight against vulgar and dishonest poetry is long lost. Better to spend your time reading Goethe.

Critics describe his poetry as bland, sappy, shallow, soporific, and boring. Some people call it "yuppie poetry." Billy does not believe that yuppie is meant in a flattering way. It's not something he'd like to see on his tombstone. But it doesn't really bother him. Yuppies are people who are better educated getting those accounting firm jobs, the advertising firms and the lawyers. He's not saying they're better people, but they need to relax more than blue-collar people. It's fine either way. Nobody's better than anybody or anything but if it's true that yuppies are under more pressure, then his kind of poetry seems to relax them. It's just a theory he has. Might be 100 percent wrong. Probably is.

More later.


* It is actually interesting to read Metheny's remarks about Kenny G. There are two longish statements to supplement his early formula "Kenny G sucks". It seems that the first came on Kenny G's 44th birthday on Metheny's own message board. Metheny spends a lot of time arguing for why hating G is actually a significant aesthetic stance, even a duty, and offers the following succinct critique of his style of playing: "lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up". In a follow up to this statement he takes up the "It's only Kenny G" objection to even talking about it, and puts it in perspective:

people's words and opinions about music, mine included ("stature" be damned), especially when jotted down, are largely for the pleasure of the language, they mostly have less to do with the music in question than the cultural point of view that they are offered in and usually intrinsically designed to illuminate/ castigate/ defend/ whatever.
Mutadis mutandis?

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