Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Award Winner-- Poetry

The winner of the 2004 National Book Award in the Poetry category was Jean Valentine, who appears to live in New York City (naturally).

Ms. Valentine, a graduate of Radcliffe (sister school to Harvard), won the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1965. Since then she's been given a long list of awards and grants by the lit establishment-- among them, from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Guggenheim Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation, Bunting Institute, Maurice English Prize, Teasdale Poetry Prize, Shelly Memorial Prize, etc etc etc. And now a National Book Award to add to that.

With all those accolades one would think Jean Valentine is quite a spectacular and amazing poet. Not! Here's one from her latest award-winning collection:

THE COIN

While you were alive
and thought well of me
there was always a coin
in my fish-mouth
off in the night
or the day lake. Now
the little coin doesn't need itself.

I'm looking for great qualities of rhythmn, euphony, rhyme, image in this long and lofty poem and can't seem to find too many of them. The other poems in the book are similarly undistinguished. But the elite have again rewarded one of their own. Ms. Valentine and her friends are content, and will no doubt continue cranking out more unremarkable verse to ensure America's poetry scene remains dead.

4 comments:

Noah Cicero said...

That is one sad pathetic poem. As Pound said and even non-literary people can agree poets should, "Go in fear of abstractions." Lets analyze this poem.

While you were alive

That line implies she is speaking to someone that is not dead, tautologies are awsome.

and thought well of me

The person that is alive thinks thoughts like, "Oh she has really nice shoes, and her white carpet is wonderful."

there was always a coin

Somehow thinking led to there being a nickel or dime. And it was always there since the beginning of time, or while that person remained alive and not dead.

in my fish-mouth

A nickel or dime is located inside the speaker's fish mouth. I have no idea what a fish mouth is, maybe if she specified what kind of fish but I cannot explain the fish mouth. Even if she specified salt or fresh water fish. Perhaps she is implying she has gills. And why the hell would there be a coin in her mouth.

off in the night

I guess that means when the part of the world she is living in is faced away from the sun her fish mouth is walking around doing stuff, I don't know what, she did not specify again.

or the day lake. Now

what is a day lake and what is her fish mouth doing out on it. And why the hell would she end a cadence with the word Now. that is a horrible sounding word to end a cadence with.

the little coin doesn't need itself.

The little coin, question: what little coin? Maybe she was referring to the coin in her fish mouth, but that can't be the one, because she would have specified the coin in her fish mouth and not a little coin. But we can surmise that the little coin that is itself can somehow be not itself and at the same time not need itself.

Anonymous said...

I'm as offensively well-read as the next literary curmudgeon, but I have to admit I don't have a single fucking clue what the coin chilling out in the lass' fishmouth is even supposed to mean. There's the whole Charon thing, and the placing of the coin in the mouth of a dead person, so the coin metaphor is tangentially related to death . . . but beyond that, I'm baffled.

Since I like to think that SOMEONE is pretending to get what this artless dull thud of words is supposed to mean, does anyone have a suggestion?

King said...

It's like a Barnett Newman painting-- it's not supposed to make sense, it's only an excuse for circulating tax-sheltered money. Understanding it might give the game away.

I'm planning a post about Shakespeare, pros and cons. One thing that can be noticed is the way language (among some) has become so constricted and narrowed, while his is so rich, broad, and alive. (Whether one understands all of it, the mere sound of his language is impressive.)

Anonymous said...

The seven sisters used to be about making scivy league wives for scivy league husbands to make scivy league brats. Now they're about making bad lesbian poetry.