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« sarah arvio tuesday | Main | Ian Brown on Joseph Ceravolo's Collected Poems (Part Two) »

February 12, 2013


Before you go ahead and say, "that bastard can't even respond with his real name! What a coward," you'll note that said bastard might be someone you know who feels too badly to say this to your face. But, someone's got to do it, no?

1. Masturbating someone is really tacky. It's just too close to home to say your professor is the champion of contemporary American poetry. OK. Like, we get it.

2. Also, this is really poorly written. Come on man. Don't make the MFA we paid for look so easy to attain? Isn't there some level of craft or at least originality behind good writing? (I'm sitting with a cup of whatever, in this cafe/bar/whatever) WITH a fiancee no less, who you're kissing, and describing as beautiful. Has no place in this blog post. When blogs are written well, their content is informative and the narrative, even personal, can pull a reader in. But when your personal touches make us (US) want to barf, it's just painful. We feel a little shamed for you from afar.

Good ideas. Nice job getting this on the "BEST" American Poetry blog. Really, we could tell it's also sincere and it's heartfelt. It's just a tad too high-school kid writing for his college newspaper and not enough Human-Attaining-Masters Degree with unique things to say. Meh?

Ian, I love this passage: "Secretly I think, no one should ever write criticism on art this great - art this great should simply be read by everyone alive in the solitude of their days, over and over again, and thus, become woven into the fabric of their cognitive experience by instinctively recalling the poems and then applying them into their daily actions."

I say if you know the person, you should say it, whatever it is, to his face. It would be less hurtful. Maybe the piece started slowly and could have gotten more quickly to Ceravolo. The fact that BC does not mention Ceravolo at all makes me wonder about the motives and the sincerity of the comment. Does BC stand for Big Coward after all?

Tiger, the lines I like the best are these:
I think about Joseph and all the poems in his books that were dedicated to his wife Rosemary. I’m struck at how beautiful a thing it is to be a poet in love and how lucky the world is to have known Joseph Ceravolo in love.
For the next few hours I read straight through, giving each poem the respect of at least a moment’s contemplation to collect what I have gained from having read it.
Your unkind critic grudgingly acknowledges your writing is "sincere" and "heartfelt." Yes, and a lot of readers will be charmed by the things that piss off BC.
Like Rick Peters, I wish the conversation would get back to Ceravolo. -- DL

Excellent post, Ian. IT IS refreshing to read a piece so conscious of the insurmountable difficulty in saying something intelligent about such a daunting literary treasure. This post reflects not only on the work of Ceravalo but on the act and process of experiencing and thinking about poems. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT SO THANK YOU. Looking forward to part 2.

To "BC", who posted the unkind comment: YOU should be chided for your inability (with your own "MFA degree", or whatever) to write something biting that doesn't so obviously reflect your own feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. You are a silly human being.

Ian - the passage that the earlier commenter Stephanie highlighted from your review really is an exceptional one - " this great should simply be read by everyone alive," you write, "in the solitude of their days, over and over again, and thus, become woven into the fabric of their cognitive experience by instinctively recalling the poems and then applying them into their daily actions." Reading that and thinking about it, I couldn't help but recall a passage from Emerson I've recently stumbled across: "He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth." Certainly I think this is a good way to approach poetry (and clearly this is how you approached Ceravolo) - there are moments we encounter in great poetry that really resonate within us - and these are things which come to penetrate our actions before we are able to even begin to "apprehend [them] as truth;" so profound & tangible is their existence to us that we can intuit their values and implement them into our lives before we can ever discuss their truth critically, or in terms that make sense outside of ourselves.

I found it thus very fitting that you chose to utilize moments of autobiography in the discussion of your experience with Ceravolo's work - there are things in his poems which you've begun to "act as your life," I feel. An earlier, more controversial commenter on this site wrote, "When blogs are written well, their content is informative and the narrative, even personal, can pull a reader in" - and on that point I certainly agree with that commenter - However, I, unlike that commenter, found your article/review/snippet to be a wonderful example of something that utilizes an individual's (your) historical interaction with a work to effectively draw the reader in.

Anyway, I'm excited to read the second part of your commentary - I hope you can point us toward a few more particular poems of his that you find particularly moving & poignant.

I don't want to turn this thread into a warzone, but honestly I agree with the first comment made by "BC". Though I'm not sure it is best to be anonymous, I really think he or she made some astute points, particularly about the intellectual masturbation going on in this post. I think the "red-gree-blue diamond-like earring" was where I really had to chuckle out loud. Good one, young man. You're in love. That's wonderful. But for god's sake try to sharpen your writing skills before you send this blather out into the world.

Please note that when the anonymous blogger wrote another post, it was deleted three times. Not sure if this was because we mentioned Lehman or the idea of bad writing, but, come on.

A.F.C. Your comments landed in the blog's spam folder because of their length. I'm the managing editor and I did not delete them. You might want to try again but this time be brief. And before posting, consider editing for grammar, style, sentence structure, word choices, and punctuation.
Stacey Harwood

"I don't want to turn this thread into a warzone, but honestly . . ." Anyone beginning a comment with this patently insincere rhetorical formula has no business lecturing anybody else on good writing.

wow things are lively on this blog post. people are going crazy over nothing it seems. good poet, mediocre post at best. thats my 2 cents

Criticism can be practiced nobly and honestly. Criticism today is often dismaying because the insults are gratuitous, the name-calling is obnoxious, and ad hominem attacks are the norm. Here we have a young poet, Ian Brown, writing with genuine enthusiasm about the love affair he is having with the poetry of Joseph Ceravolo. As he happens to be head over heels in love with a woman, he chooses a first-person autobiographical stance to frame his remarks. Does this work? We know he is earnest. Does he help us to understand Ceravolo? Is the narrative distracting? These are legitimate questions and can surely be raised and discussed without rancor. The obsessive use of masturbation ("self-abuse") as a term of abuse is, to my mind, totally out of line, though possibly fun to deconstruct in a class on rhetoric and polemic.

Thank you, Stacey. We're on an iPhone. We're not writing papers today. We're glad that people responded positively to your being aware of how daunting it is to write critically about major work. But, when you sit down and think, 'I think I'll write this blog like this' (and expect people to read it) you could have, at the very least, tried to find some voice that doesn't alienate your readers. Don't be so sappy. Be interesting. Why, why, why make us readers literally quiver with embarrassment for you? It actually made us phone one another and laugh. That sounds harsh, but in reality, we just couldn't get to the place where we could tell you to your face. Maybe that's our fault. Sorry. The term "coward" can easily be thrown around, sure, and we get it.

But readers, we ask you: would you sign your name to this?

Ian's a capable, smart, thoughtful, kind, intelligent person. Of course you will be defensive. But, it's also OK to criticize when things are done poorly. We don't expect you to admit it, especially when you buy Lehman's books and take his classes, but when blogs are filled with 'roses are red' cheese and some gratuitous masturbation of a professor, it's just really sort of incestuous and juvenile.

We ask the folks who run this blog to reassess the
content, to not accept any old poem folded and passed via drunken times at Loup Cafe. Rediscover quality.

it's OK if you call us cowardly.

We agree he is earnest. We agree, and well said, DL.

Whoa now. Everybody just chill out. It's a BEAUTIFUL book. You should all go out and read it. That's all I'm sayin'.

also, happy Valentine's day honey boo boo (Danielle). I love you.

- Tiger Brown

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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