Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Ultimate Apparatchik

Seth Abramson, he of the Poets and Writers MFA article, has quite an impressive educational resume. He's a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. He's a current doctoral student in English at the University of Wisconsin.

Wow. Many years of elite education. He's made an enormous investment in the System (or his parents or the taxpayer has), and the System has made an enormous investment in him. Anyone think Abramson could for a moment buck said System? It's possible, but unlikely, for that would be to reject every fiber of his being: Years of indoctrination.

With such long and intense top-level training, one would expect his work to be at the apex of achievement.

Yet when one examines his poetry, one finds it to be not particularly bad, and not particularly good, but consistently mediocre. You'll look in vain for much evidence of his poetic education in the form of meter, rhyme, euphony, and striking imagery. No-- instead it's typical academy produce: bland prose with line breaks.

Even one of Abramson's admirers, Ron Silliman, admits it's post-poetic poetry. "We are moving away from poetry as literature. . . ." You know. Poetry without the poetry.

As with other apparatchiks, for Abramson the poetry itself is a means toward a bureaucratic end. The art produced is the necessary excuse for the institutional positions, classrooms, credentials, credits, awards, seminars, The art is the flimsy covering for the apparatus. Which is why it doesn't matter to the apparatchik if the art isn't very good.


King Wenclas said...

The unresolvable contradiction about Silliman and Abramson is that they claim literature for everyone at the same time they support and strengthen the institutions which imprison it. Abramson presents himself as a non-elitist, while he's grabbed every opportunity to place himself into the highest levels of an elitist intellectual system. It's a con one sees throughout the so-called Left.
"We privileged persons will speak FOR you." Abramson plays this con incessantly.

coffee philosopher said...

I'm going to have to object to some of your arguments, which I see as being ad hominem.

Firstly though, let me say that I have only read snippets of Seth Abramson's work, but that I would probably agree that his stuff is - shall we say - not my cup of tea.

My feelings about Silliman's writings are much more mixed (I own Tjanting and Age of Huts). I could never write like him and I wouldn't like his style to become dominant, but I respect and enjoy his work.

Where I object to your complaints is this - it is, for all intents and purposes, virtually impossible to make a living selling one's poetry in books and to publications. It once was possible - but not anymore. To be a full time poet requires, essentially, finding a position in academia and related fields.

Seth has found such a niche. Good for him. Heck - I'm jealous.

If you want to complain about the quality of his poetry, by all means, do so. But don't criticize someone who wants to be a poet for finding a way make that his vocation, as well as avocation - not unless you are prepared to spend some vast personal wealth supporting poets across this country, mimicking medieval and renaissance princes.

Anonymous said...

Ron Silliman has never commented publicly about Abramsom's poetry.