Louis Esterhuizen. Enkele gedagtes oor die kwessie van resensies en literêre kritiek

 

Via ‘n skakel op die Poetry Foundation se webblad beland ek op ‘n blog genaamd Lemon Hound waar daar ‘n besonder interessante projek oor die kwessie van resensies en literêre kritiek aan die gang is. Die webmeester, ene Sina Queyras, het naamlik meer as 30 bekende kritici genader met ‘n standaardstel vrae. In dié geledere het ek drie bekende name raakgesien en hul kommentare nogals insiggewend gevind. Hulle is David Orr, resensent en rubriekskrywer van die New York Times Book Review, Michael Robbins, resensent van Poetry Magazine en die London Review of Books, en Stephen Burt, professor in Engels by Harvard en skrywer van die boek Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (2009).

Vir jou leesgerief plaas ek enkele vraag-en-antwoord aanhalings hieronder, maar gaan snuffel gerus rond by Lemon Hound; daar word inderdaad belangrike goed kwytgeraak oor ‘n uiters belangrike onderwerp.

LH: Is there a quality you are looking for in a review that you haven’t found?

David Orr

David Orr

DO: I’d like to see more actual thinking going on. One of the sad facts about poetry reviewing right now is that many poets pay more attention to their own team uniforms than they do to reviewers’ reasoning. They want to hear what they want to hear, and they can be excessively charitable to bad arguments that happen to suit them, and obnoxious toward interesting arguments that don’t fit their world view. As a result, many reviewers – and I include myself in this criticism – can find themselves becoming concerned with framing and positioning at the expense of making sense.

LH: What do you hope to achieve by writing about writing? Do you believe that reviews can actually bring new readers to texts?

DO: Let me answer the second question first: Yes, I believe reviews bring new readers to authors. I know they do, actually. As for what I hope to achieve, well, I’ve always thought that criticism is its own art form. It’s true that only by reading poetry can we have the experience “reading poetry,” but it isn’t clear to me that that experience is richer or better than the experience of reading criticism, if the criticism is good enough. So I guess by “writing about writing” I hope to achieve something at least as interesting to the reader as a decent poem or pop song.

Michael Robbins

Michael Robbins

LH: If you write reviews, how would you describe your approach, or method? Do you offer or engage in exegesis, theoretical, academic, reader response, close, contextual or evaluative readings? If you don’t write but read reviews, what aspects of reviewing do you notice?

MR: I don’t think the approaches you mention are mutually exclusive. I’m interested when a reviewer sees  something about a poem or a poet that no one else has seen that strikes me as incontestably right. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but ideally it will combine stylistic brio with analytical insight into the work’s cognitive dimensions. Christopher Ricks is the most consistently astonishing reviewer in this respect.

LH: If you also write non-critical work, how different is the way you approach reviewing or critical writing to the way you approach your own “creative” writing?

MR: Well, I get assigned books to review. If someone hired me to write a poem on a deadline with a certain number of words, they would receive something like a beat-up stuffed bunny wearing an Iron Maiden jersey with a duckbill stapled on it.

LH: What do you think the purpose of a review is? If you also write about books on a blog, why? What does blogging let you do differently?

Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt

SB: Reviewers should describe the book accurately in a way that makes clear which (if any) readers will likely enjoy it; reviewers should say what’s interesting, what’s well done, what stands out (for good or ill) in a book. If the book, or its author, or books much like it, have already attracted attention, reviewers might also say why; if the book (e.g. almost all first books of poetry) hasn’t attracted much notice as yet, reviewers should explain why it deserves notice, why it’s worth our time (if indeed it is).

LH: If you write reviews, how would you describe your approach, or method? Do you offer or engage in exegesis, theoretical, academic, reader response, close, contextual or evaluative readings? If you don’t write but read reviews, what aspects of reviewing do you notice?

SB: I read through the book a few times, make plenty of notes, then arrange them into what I hope makes a vivid and well-argued essay at the appropriate length. Depending on the length, the venue, and the sort of poetry (or other writing) under review, all the modes of reading you name above might play a role (except possibly “reader-response,” which names a limited and perhaps obsolescent mode of academic meta-analysis, explaining what other readers have seen in a book). Exegesis, theory, “close reading,” impressionism, context, and flat-out evaluation each have their place, though simple ratings (letter grades, stars as for movie reviews, adjectives such as “great” or “superb” or “remarkable”) rarely convince skeptics; reviewers should say not that books are good or bad, but how and why.

LH: Have you been in a position where you have had to write about a book that you don’t care for, or a book that is coming out of a tradition that you are perhaps opposed to, or resistant to on some level? How do you handle such events? Or how have you noticed others handle these events?

SB: Yes, I have. I’ve rejected assignments when I’ve felt unable to do a book justice; I’ve also accepted requests that I review writers whose work has left me ambivalent or dissatisfied. In each of these cases I try to do the book justice, to explain what it seems to be trying to do, why that goal seems worthwhile (if it seems worth while), and what other goals it occludes or prevents. I don’t seek out those sorts of requests, but I do accept them: I would hate to live in a world where all poets, or all kinds and schools of poetry, get examined only by the subset of critics who already think they’re great.

Amen.

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8 Kommentare op “Louis Esterhuizen. Enkele gedagtes oor die kwessie van resensies en literêre kritiek”

  1. Sosiale media, veral Facebook, het ‘n interessante fenomeen geskep – elkeen kan sy of haar werk aanbied as poësie, maak nie saak wat die gehalte daarvan is nie. Dan slaag die meeste publiseerders van “poësie” in hierdie media dan ook om ‘n groep bewonderaars om hulle te versamel met ‘n kritiese woordeskat soos “klassiek!”, wonderlik!” en “verruklik mooi”.

    Dit laat die taak van die literêre kritikus dan weer opskemer: hoe onderskei mens tussen goeie poësie, swak poësie en woordpoeding?

    Daar is ‘n reeks tegnieke en benaderinge waarna die kritikus homself kan wend. Een van die maklikste kriteria om swak poësie of woordpoeding uit te ken, is om te kyk na die manier hoe die skrywer van die stuk beelde en metafore aanbied. Die poedingskrywer is altyd oordadig, ge-yk, vals en onoortuigend.

    Hier is ‘n paar voorbeelde van sodanige woordgebruik wat ek met ‘n vinnige skep in die Faceboek-see raakgeskep het:

    “vir sterflinge wat in die sterre waak.”

    “die ongebore kinders van die wind”

    “In bergspitse wat na die hemel reik”

    Nee, ek oordryf nie, iemand het wel hierdie reëls in alle erns as poësie aangebied.

    Vergelyk dit met die vertaalde reëls uit Octavio Paz se gedig “Tussen gaan en bly”
    (Entre irse y quedarse).

    “Papiere, ‘n boek, ‘n glas, ‘n potlood
    rus in die skadu van hulle name.”

    Literêre kritiek op sy beste skei die koring van die kaf. En die lewe is te kort om kaf te lees.

  2. Leon Retief :

    Daniel, ek het toe op die internet gaan kyk wat als daar aangebied word. Meeste van wat mens daar kry is eintlik onbedoeld komies, maar as mens in ag neem dat dit in alle erns as poe”sie voorgehou word dan is dit in werklikheid skrikwekkend. En dan word een van hierdie, um, digters nogal vergelyk met NP van Wyk Louw! The mind boggles…

  3. Hallo Leon. Ek wou aanvanklik ook die woord “skrikwekkend” gebruik het, maar het gedink dit is te sterk. Maar nou stem ek met jou saam, skrikwekkend is dit. Hoekom? Mens skrik want jy besef dat ‘n magtige medium (FaceBook) wat seker duisende Afrikaanse lesers bereik, die indruk help skep dat die woordpoeding wat aangebied word, verteenwoordigend is van Afrikaanse poësie.
    Verstaan my goed, ek is hoegenaamd nie gekant daarteen dat mense hulle skryfwerk blootstel op FB nie. (Daar is moontlik ook werk van meriete hier en daar op FB te kry). Dit is gesond dat mense hulle kreatiwiteit kan uitleef. Maar wanneer dit kom by waardepaling … dan skrik ek. Gelukkig is daar webruimtes soos Versindaba waar standaarde gestel word en waar mens ‘n goeie idee kan kry van wat Afrikaanse poësie nou eintlik is.

  4. Leon Retief :

    Ag askies de Waal, om een of ander rede het ek jou aangespreek as daniel – weet nie waarom nie, jammer hoor!

  5. De Waal Venter :

    Als reg, Leon. Daniel is ‘n mooi naam 🙂

  6. Leon Retief :

    De Waal, ek het gisteraand so bietjie verder gaan lees aan een van hierdie digters se, ummm… verse. Dit klink soos Patience Strong wat vergeet het om haar Prozac te drink…

  7. Hallo Leon.
    Ek probeer om nie te glimlag nie … maar kry dit nie reg nie…

  8. Maar nou laat dit my verder dink aan die aard en funksie van literêre kritiek.

    Ek het voorheen gesê een van die beste metodes om te besluit of ‘n gedig waarde het, is om te kyk hoe die digter beelde en matafore gebruik.

    Watse ander kriteria is daar? Vir my is nog ‘n belangrike een “betekenis” of eerder “betekenisreekse”. Neem nou Opperman se Klara Majola (nou dat dit so koud is). ‘n Kort en “eenvoudige” gedig.

    Maar kyk na die reeks “betekenisse” wat opdoem: die sosiale opset wat armes benadeel, ‘n suster se liefde, die filosofiese vraag: “hoekom sorg mense vir mekaar?” ens.

    Nota: ons dink gewoonlik aan literêre kritiek as ‘n funksie van akademici en professionele letterkundiges. Na my mening span elke leser sy of haar eie vorm van literêre kritiek in wanneer hy of sy ‘n gedig lees en dit (onwillekeurig) na waarde skat.

    Die meeste van ons gebruik nie die wapenrusting van die professionele kritikus nie, maar ek glo dat die aandagtige leser net so goed in staat is om ‘n waarde-oordeel te fel as die professionele kritikus.