Poetry, Metal, Irony, and Other Links

Converge

Michael Robbins has a great piece in this months Harper’s, “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives: A Poet’s Guide to Metal,” which, in the space of six pages, is able to reference John Milton, Rainer Maria Rilke, Black Sabbath, and Converge. I did not know that could be done. (Even R., who tends to abhor whenever anything loud and screamy even gets near our home’s turntable, enjoyed this piece.) Highlights of the short essay include: quoting a number of lines from William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and commenting, “sounds pretty metal to me”; describing a Converge show where they “took over that space like a bellowing wooly rhino crashing into a Pleistocene clearing. . . . It’s war music” (a pretty accurate description); and some reflections on metal and capital: “Sometimes I wonder what metal would sound like after capitalism, or whether we would even need metal then. I wonder the same about poetry.”

More DFW stuff. Peter Finocchiaro, “What David Foster Wallace Got Wrong About Irony: Our Culture Doesn’t Have Nearly Enough of It,” which, strangely enough, is actually an interview with Jonathan Lear about irony (rather than an article specifically about DFW’s sense of irony). In my revised version of an essay that will appear in David Foster Wallace and “The Long Thing” (forthcoming July 2014), I make some similar points about the need for irony at the present time. That said, Lear seems to have a better handle on Wallace’s specific take on irony from the television essay than Finocchiaro, emphasizing that DFW was both a gifted ironist himself and that, in “E Unibus Pluram,” he is critiquing institutionalized irony, which I think all us post-ironists or new sincerity people would do well to heed, along with Lear’s acknowledgment that irony can actually be a from of earnestness: “There’s a very famous quote from Kierkegaard — or, I don’t know how famous it is, but it’s one of my favorites — where he said, it’s ‘only assistant professors’ who think irony can’t be a form of earnestness. Basically his claim is that irony when properly understood is a very high form of sincerity and earnestness, not its opposite. As he put it, it’s a real misunderstanding of what irony is to think it’s the opposite of earnestness toward commitment.” I feel the earnestness or “sincerity” of irony as it plays out in DFW’s work and thinking has been something that has been overlooked to the detriment of both our understanding of DFW and irony more generally.

Alex C. Madrigal and Adrienne LaFrance, “Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea.”

Dexter Filkins writes a letter from Iraq in The New Yorker, “What We Left Behind.”

And from the University of Pittsburgh’s great graduate student film blog, Kevin Flanagan on “Introduction to Applied Airport Studies.”

Some Links on the Current Debate About Contemporary Poetry

The July 2013 issue of Harper’s has an article that has sparked considerable amounts of debate in the world of contemporary poetry. Mark Edmundson’s “Poetry Slam: Or, The Decline of American Verse” is being widely responded to. (There’s a link, but you need a subscription or to pick up an actual copy of the magazine.) A smattering of links:

Ron Charles immediately reported on Edmundson’s polemic in The Washington Post with “Why is Modern Poetry So Bad?” (Though his use of “modern” in the title probably signals a certain ignorance of twentieth and twenty-first century poetry . . . .)

The University of Pittsburgh’s own Dawn Lundy Martin has weighed in with “In Defense of-.”

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The Apocalypse in Recent News

James Atlas wrote a piece, “Is this the End?” in Sunday’s New York Times discussing narrative eschatology with regard to Sandy and rising oceans and the sustainability of NYC: “Last month’s ‘weather event’ should have taught us that. . .  in 50 or 100 or 200 years, there’s a good chance that New York City will sink beneath the sea.”

(In his I think monthly column “Easy Chair”) Thomas Frank has an article on “the 2012 canon of doom” in December’s issue of Harper’s, titled (cleverly . . .) “Appetite for Destruction.”