Thursday, January 21, 2010

Nicholson Baker, Part 2

Thinking more on the Anthologist after listening to a Yale online course on Milton. Learned that Milton was the first to use unrhymed blank verse in English, outside of drama. Milton's personal defense was that this scheme is used by all great epic poets: Homer and Virgil not excepted. Spenser used rhyme, of course, but was an exception and perhaps was not entirely successful as an "epic" poet from Milton's perspective--too allegorical?. This relates to my sense, as I said in a previous post, that there is a lack of elevated tone in the book to give it's meanderings weight that we might expect in heroic poetry. Camille Paglia, after writing her poetry anthology Break Blow Burn of a few years ago bemoaned the current fad for long poems (mentions Wallace Stevens as the originator of the trend with A.R. Ammons and Ashbery as key examples). Paglia, like Baker, champions the short lyric. The lyric one can see entire on a single page. The density of a short poem. I am a partisan of epics, of prophetic disjunctions--Spenser, Milton, Blake, Shelley... these are my heroes but it seems like such a mode is absent. It is cheering to know there are still champions of poetry, especially lyrical poetry but will there ever again be an age of high idealism, of epic?


teacherwoman said...

I just saw your comment on my blog about Harold Bloom. Perhaps I was too hard on the man, but I simply cannot be objective about him (I'm tainted by a professor who worked under him and came out with very poor views). Anyway, thank you for commenting; it was delightful to see that someone outside of my little theater group read my blog. I've been enjoying your posts, and it's been refreshing to read intelligent writing.

Perscors said...

Thank you so much for the response and the compliments too! I have a google alert on Harold Bloom and make the occassional post here and there. I respect your reservations as well. It is an odd boat to be in often times--that situation where one discovers that one's hero has some flaw in their character. Evn though I have neither met Bloom nor even met someone who has met him I feel I know him about as well as one might after having read all his books and interviews ect. I definitely have a very personal attachment to him but ultimately I don't know where he will stand in posterity. And I wouldn't be surprised if Bloom is a rather obscure figure in the future. The one incontestable fact is that he has brought me to books I would likely never have discovered without him (or at least not as readily as I have.) As Whitman said of Emerson, I was simmering simmering simmering and he brought me to a boil.