anything worse than a poetry reading with some light jazz in the background, and it always seems to be jazz—nobody’s ever reciting Mary Oliver over happy hardcore. But whenever the world of poetry seems overly archaic and stuffy, I like to take a music break and try to reimagine what a poetry version of the Righteous Brothers might sound like…. What was that thing Emily Dickinson said about God wanting to crack her skull open? Well I bet she would have liked Tom Jones too. —Hera Lindsay Bird, “Try Hard,” Poetry Magazine, 2018. THE AMERICAN EPIC, PROBABLY NEVER TO BE matched, begins: “I celebrate myself.” Whitman deliberately counterpoints that assertion against Homer’s “Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son Achilleus” (Iliad); “Tell me, Muse, of the man ofmany ways, who was driven” (Odyssey); and Virgil’s “I sing of arms and of a man” (Aeneid). Only Walt Whitman would dare to begin his central poem with self-celebration. Attempt to imagine Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, or T. S. Eliot starting a poem with “I celebrate myself.” It is beyond belief. Hart Crane, obsessed with and inspired by Whitman, celebrates the Brooklyn Bridge as the myth of America, but when it comes to self, Crane destroys his own being as an Orphic sacrifice. But Walt Whitman has come to heal us. —Harold Bloom, Possessed by Memory (KnopfDoubleday, 2019). WE ARE ACCUSTOMED TO RATHER EASY categories: we distinguish between “personal” and “political” poems —the former calling to mind lyrics of love and emotional loss, the latter indicating a public partisanship that is considered divisive, even when necessary. The distinction between the personal and the political gives the political realm too much and too little scope; at the same time, it renders the personal too important and not important enough. If we give up the dimension of the personal, we risk relinquishing one of the most powerful sites of resistance. The celebration of the personal, however, can indicate a myopia, an inability to see how larger structures of the economy and the state circumscribe, if not determine, the fragile realm of individuality… Volume 7 - Page 17

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