Posts Tagged ‘The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry’

Louis Esterhuizen. Amerikaanse swaargewigdigters in bekgeveg oor resensie

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011


In die Amerikaanse media het daar ‘n bekgeveg ontstaan tussen Rita Dove, samesteller van The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, en Helen Vendler na laasgenoemde se afwysende resensie van dié omvattende antologie wat in die New York Review verskyn het.  

Helen Vendler

Helen Vendler

Onder die opskrif “Are These the Poems to Remember? open Vendler haar beskouing met die volgende stelling: “Twentieth-century American poetry has been one of the glories of modern literature. The most significant names and texts are known worldwide […] Rita Dove, a recent poet laureate (1993-1995), has decided, in her new anthology of poetry of the past century, to shift the balance, introducing more black poets and giving them significant amounts of space, in some cases more space than is given to better-known authors. These writers are included in some cases for their representative themes rather than their style. Dove is at pains to include angry outbursts as well as artistically ambitious meditations.”

Die res van die resensie sentreer veral rondom Dove se keuse van digters en die gedigte waarmee hulle verteenwoordig word; veral die keuse van Wallace Stevens se gedigte word onder ‘n besonder skerp vergrootglas bekyk. So ook die oorskouende inleiding wat Dove geskryf het.

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

Maar dit is nou veral Dove se reaksie, wat eweneens in die New York Review verskyn het, wat ‘n jeukerigheid in die literêre geledere laat ontstaan. Met ‘n stelling soos “Helen Vendler seems to have allowed outrage to get the better of her, leading to a number of illogical assertions and haphazard conclusions,” vuur Dove haar openingsalvo af en vervolg dan met: “I have no desire to engage a critic in a debate on aesthetic preferences and consequent selection-to each her own-but I cannot let her get away with building her house of cards on falsehoods and innuendo.”

Hierna verdedig sy haar keuse van 175 digters met die volgende stelling: “The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry is not meant to be an in-depth scholarly study of pick-your-ism; it is a gathering of poems its editor finds outstanding for a variety of reasons, and by no means all of them in adherence to my own aesthetic taste buds; my intent was to offer many of the best poems bound into books between 1900 and 2000 and to lend a helping hand to those readers wishing to strike out on their own beyond this selection.”

Uiteindelik, na ‘n ellelange reaksie op verskeie punte in die Vendler-resensie, eindig Dove met die volgende stelling as slotparagraaf: “The amount of vitriol in Helen Vendler’s review betrays an agenda beyond aesthetics. As a result, she not only loses her grasp on the facts, but her language, admired in the past for its theoretical elegance, snarls and grouses, sidles and roars as it lurches from example to counterexample, misreading intent again and again. Whether propelled by academic outrage or the wild sorrow of someone who feels betrayed by the world she thought she knew-how sad to witness a formidable intelligence ravished in such a clumsy performance.”

En Helen Vendler se reaksie hierop?

Wel, synde ‘n digter van formaat, kort en bondig soos dit hoort: “I have written the review and I stand by it.”

Doef. Doef-doef. Doef-dip-dwa!

Hieronder volg een van Rita Dove se gedigte.


After reading Mickey in the night kitchen for the third time before bed

I’m in the milk and the milk’s in me! … I’m Mickey!

My daughter spreads her legs
to find her vagina:
hairless, this mistaken
bit of nomenclature
is what a stranger cannot touch
without her yelling. She demands
to see mine and momentarily
we’re a lopsided star
among the spilled toys,
my prodigious scallops
exposed to her neat cameo.

And yet the same glazed
tunnel, layered sequences.
She is three; that makes this
innocent. We’re pink!
she shrieks, and bounds off.

Every month she wants
to know where it hurts
and what the wrinkled string means
between my legs. This is good blood
I say, but that’s wrong, too.
How to tell her that it’s what makes us-
black mother, cream child.
That we’re in the pink
and the pink’s in us.

© Rita Dove