Friday, September 02, 2016

The Barbarian Invasion of Poetry (Hurrah!)



The barbarians are here! They've breached the walls of the fortress! The city lies in ruins! Poetry is at their mercy!

Well, it's all a bit more complicated and not so grim. Find out more in the first monthly installment of the new "Essays and Comment" feature at Plume. I will be editing, and sometimes writing, the feature.  I wrote the first one, "The Barbarian Invasion of Poetry (Hurrah!)" and it begins like this:
This just in: the Empire of Poetry has fallen to the barbarians. The fall was not sudden—it took place over the course of the last seventy years or so, and even before then alarmed sentries spoke of shaggy hordes moving in the dark forests beyond the far-flung border outposts, clutching their axes and the icons of their strange, compelling gods. Let me begin by making clear that I, bred within the confines of the old and dying Empire, welcome the barbarians as friends, and as a force to invigorate our aging and insular imperium. 
When I speak of barbarians, I speak of them as the Italian novelist and essayist Alessandro Baricco does in his study The Barbarians: An Essay on the Mutation of Culture, a book largely unknown in America, despite having been serialized in one of the most prominent Italian newspapers, giving rise there to a nationwide discussion of the changing nature of cultural production and consumption. For Barrico, the barbarians are a group on the rise, and not just in Italy, or even Europe, but worldwide. Ever more visible, they cause great distress among the more hidebound Catos committed to the old and dying virtues of the Empire—not, it is important to note, a distress that Barrico shares. Barrico sees the barbarians everywhere, marked not so much by their different culture as by the different way they think about culture, be it musical culture, literature, cuisine—even wine and soccer (Barrico is, after all, Italian). The old ways of the Empire are deeply traditional, rooted in an appreciation of the specific history of whatever cultural form is under consideration. But the barbarians see things differently. They are eclectic, these nomads from beyond the borders, and less attached to the traditions of the imperial past.
It goes on to talk about Frank O'Hara, Claudia Rankine, Michael Robbins, C. Russell Price, and others, with some notes on how to drink wine and listen to music.  You can find it here.

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