I recently told a poet friend that there are certain tip-offs or buzz-words in poetry book blurbs that lead me to think that I probably will not like the books. But I couldn't say what those words/phrases were, at the time. Well, I went looking for some in a recent catalog, and here is some blurbese that set off my alarm bells:
- [if the blurb consists entirely of the author's publications and prizes]
- [blurbs that only address the subject-matter, not the form/style]
- 'the [abstract noun] of [abstract noun]': largeness of heart; compass points of the human landscape
- '[abstract noun or adjective] & (yet) [abstract noun or adjective]': meaning & beauty; tender & tough; timeless & particular; wit & wisdom; uncertainty & insight; mystery & acceptance; haunting & buoyant; fresh language & vivid images
- anything about bearing witness
- life-affirming or soul-infused
- any version of the verb 'to celebrate'
- authentic(ity); honest(y); visceral
- ordinary miracles
- insightful, meditative, philosophical, haunting, riveting, exhilarating, heartbreaking.
These are all real examples; and it may be that the authors of these books were wincing at the blurbs long before I was. All of which may simply be saying that I am the ungrateful whelp of the middlebrow-humanist culture that nurtured whatever interest I possess in poetry or learning today. As my Aunt Frances used to say, "If you can't think of anything good to say about something, just say, 'I don't know enough about it to appreciate it.'" But then, I don't go to Mass anymore, either, precisely b/c I know more about Catholicism than I care to recall.
Next time: Buzz-words of the Avant-Garde
A couple items to archive here - I've listened to neither of these, so am saving for later-- Pam Brown talks about collaborating with me and Maged Zaher (the latter became a Tinfish Press ...
1 day ago