Monday, December 04, 2006

Pg. 69: "The Resistance to Poetry"

James Longenbach is a poet, critic, and the Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester.

I asked James to put his most recent book of criticism, The Resistance to Poetry, to the "page 69 test." Here is what he reported:
On page sixty-nine of The Resistance to Poetry I find that I’m talking about my two favorite living American poets, Louise Glück and Frank Bidart. Since the page begins with a quotation from Glück and ends with a quotation from Bidart, I find it hard not to read the page circularly, as if the Bidart lines continue into the Glück lines at the top of the page. If you read the page that way, you end up with a new poem that goes like this:

Don’t worry— I know you’re dead.

But tonight, when I woke,

I was crying.

Has that no reality?

I met my love under an orange tree:

I have forgotten

Only the facts, not the inference.

Brilliant. Who wrote it? I did. Between the quotations I find myself asking, “who among us would not want to hear the voices of the dead?” When I wrote that sentence I thought I was asking a rhetorical question, but suddenly it seems to me that the answer might be not me, buddy! Hearing the voices of the dead would be terrifying. But poems exist in order to allow us to experience terror—along with boredom, loss, unappeasable mystery—as nourishment. Maybe the next lines of my poem should be these:

The second burden

of a former child:

I am content to live it all again.

That’s Shakespeare and Yeats. See pages twenty-seven and ninety-six.
Many thanks to James for the input.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Resistance to Poetry.

In a brief review of The Resistance to Poetry in the Boston Review, Robert Schnall wrote "Longenbach has created a work that may be greeted with surprise in some literary circles, but which will enhance our understanding of poetry more than any book in recent years."

A number of his poems are available online, including: "Draft of a Letter," "Gods in Exile," "Photographs," and "Orion."

His collections of poetry are Fleet River and Threshold (click here to read an excerpt).

Longenbach assessed the poetry of Paul Muldoon in this article in Slate, and reviewed the prose and poetry of John Ashberry in "Poetry Is Poetry."

Previous "page 69 tests":
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue