Thursday, August 23, 2007


I think that the poet, whether she likes it or not, always has to struggle against what Chuck D has called the ‘dumbassification’ of American culture, against the deadening of intellects upon which our empire depends.

Ben Lerner

Anatole France is said to have spent a great deal of time seaching for the least possible variant that would turn the most worn-out and commonest phrases of journalism into something distinguished.

Ezra Pound (ABC, p. 70)

"Torque" is not in Cuddon's Dictionary of Literary Terms. Kasey, however, has provided a useful two-part definition. It is the second of these that I want to focus on: "a way of talking about a poem's ability to dodge readerly expectations, to swerve or twist away from a strict construal or single valence." Harold Bloom used similar language in the Anxiety of Influence when defining the "revisionary ratio" of the clinamen: "a corrective movement in [a new] poem, which implies that the precursor poem went accurately up to a certain point, but then should have swerved, precisely in the direction that the new poem moves." But Kasey's definition is not about a poem's relation to its precursors; it is about a poem's relation to "readerly expectations". I want to use Ben Lerner's title concept of yaw to discuss a poem's relation to culture in general, more specifically, popular culture.

More later.

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