Monday, January 12, 2009

Deborah Garrison

There was recently a discussion on the Wom-po list of my review of Deborah Garrison's 'The Second Child.' Looking back at the review, it does strike me as particularly scathing, and I feel the need to perhaps amend some of my comments -- not in defense, per se, but further explanation.
The most notable comments was that my review was sexist. Although I have certainly been called sexist before, I am unsure how it relates in this context. I hope the review shows, not that I am critical of Garrison's content (domesticity), but rather her 'poetics.' As I pointed out, Garrison's techniques are sophomoric and her language avoids lyricism. Many of my own poems focus on domesticity as does some work of my favorite poets: Jarnot, Baker, Notley, Hillman, Graham, Zucker, and so on. My complaints, in fact, are primarily a defense of the aforementioned poets who, with the exception of Graham, are significantly ignored by the mainstream media. What I was trying to uncover is my frustration at the mainstream media lauding a poet, not because she is fabulous, but simple because she is part of the corporate machine. I mean, when was the last time a poet was in Elle? The review also was based off a portrait that the 'New York Times' did of Garrison portraying her as a hard working mother. 
When the media lauds wealthy people as 'hard working parents' it brings into question issues of race, disability, and class that make me uncomfortable. I tried to make this clear in the review by requesting that the media portray more women who 'have' to work versus those who 'chose' to work.

The review was not meant to insult Garrison nor 'drive a stake through her heart.' The review was meant to question poetry that I find incredibly weak and show that the emperor(ess) has no clothes.  I think that people read my comments and think that I am trying to be cruel. I am not. When I speak of poems, I speak of just those. The 'person' who wrote them is superfluous in a manner -- not in a mean way. 

One example that I might compare Garrison to is Jorie Graham. Jorie has has privileges that many poets will never see. Like Garrison, she has been lauded by the mainstream. Graham teaches at Harvard, publishes regularly in the New Yorker, and has a contract with Ecco Press. Those who know Graham's biography know that Graham didn't quite work from the ground up.  However, Graham's poetry is mind blowing. It shows a sophistication that few modern poets can match. Does one's lineage matter entirely? I am not necessarily arguing that it does. Ultimately, the poems are what matter.

No comments: