I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

29 July 2005

Sec 102 Row 24 Seats 23 and 24

Got the tickets from my brother for the University of Georgia game. We'll be sitting near the far endzone (upper left hand corner as you view the field from television), where most of the BSU fans will be seating.

Yesterday, I was throwing footballs with Carson and Nick (my nephew), and they asked what I thought BSU chances were, not what I hoped they would be. I thought it was 1/3, because the game was in Athens and the Georgia defense would be imposing. Nick was a little more optimistic, saying it was 50:50 for him. We agreed that our offense would be ready, and that we had almost no question marks about the Broncos. And we went on from there, which I'll later cover.

I am really sorry Nick won't be with us, as he'll be going through first-year orientation at Gonzaga. His father has promised him, though, that if Boise makes it to a big bowl game, he'll make sure that they both go. For me and Carson, though, I think we'd have to hope for a bowl game in Florida for that to happen for us. All the same, this game with UGA is the equivalent of a bowl game for BSU.

18 July 2005

Soon to Boise

I'll be leaving Saturday for my usual vacation to Idaho with my son to visit our family in Boise. This year it'll be an abbreviated trip, as we typically will go to Long Beach, Washington for a week. Because he and the cousins are all older, with more obligations for school and work and drivers' education, we'll stay landlocked, with the highlight a stay at my folks cabin in Lowman. It'll be good all the same.

In Boise, my brother has plans for us to go to the BSU bookstore to buy BSU gear--I think that means I'll be getting a hat and/or jersey to don for the Georgia game. My brother has indeed purchased the tickets, and I have bought the plane ticket and made the car reservation, and so it appears that it's a done deal. I will be sure to take the digital camera to Athens, and perhaps will send off a report or two while there.

Also in Boise, I'll be going to the Boise Art Museum, which has an O'Keefe exhibit (it really is a nice, small museum--a gem--and it's where I first had a public reading, when I was in high school and read from a city-wide anthology of creative works by Boise children, 1974 or 75 most likely). Oh, and I'll also drop in at the Literary Log Cabin, a very cool and well run literary center.

One of the reasons I wanted to leave Idaho and the Northwest in 1981 to pursue graduate course work in creative writing and in English was that the writing scene was somewhat provencial (although highly supportive) and insular. Tom Trusky had done great things with cold drill, the BSU literary magazine, and the university, through Charles David Wright, brought in top notch writers, but even when I was just a high schooler, I already knew all the poets in town. Some were dear and talented(Maggie Ward), but others (Alan Minskoff comes to mind) were insufferable posers.

Now, Boise is a much more happenin' place in terms of the poetry scene. I believe Minskoff is still there, but mostly with the growth in the university and broadening of culture in the city itself, the city now boasts an active and far-ranging poetry circuit. Yes, some of the good, long-standing Idaho poets are still about (Rick Ardinger, Bill Studebaker, Bill Wrigley, Margaret Aho, Diane Raptosh), but with the improvement of Ahasahta Press (despite Foetry's slamming it) under Janet Holmes, the founding of the MFA program and the Log Cabin, and the varied small poetry venues--a young poet would not find Boise such a lonesome, isolated place as I did.

Oh, yes, so much nostalgia here, I realize. And it's not that I am a mindless fanatic for all things MFA, but in this case, the program really fits and improves the community.

11 July 2005

Poem Accepted in Gulf Stream

Got a poem accepted for the upcoming issue on "Postcards" for Gulf Stream magazine out of Miami. The editor is Jill Drumm, and she's a terrific young poet I expect we'll hear from over the next few years.

Oh, about the whole getting-a-poem-published-in-a-magazine thing is something of a tiresome subject for me. First, I am always grateful, knowing how many poems are turned aside for others. But I am hardly someone who submits all their work all the time, and especially for someone in academia, where promotion is often connected to where one publishes (and that's more and more the case even where I teach), I should be concerned about who publishes me. Even among poet friends, when we do talk about magazine publications, it's often about dropping names of New Yorker editors like Dana Goodyear or about marking accomplishment--when was the last time you were in Poetry?

I've pretty much abandoned those kinds of poses years ago, meaning that I did embrace them for a time. Now, it's about sending work to places where I like what the editors are doing, and that's why I more frequently submit to e-zines and smallish magazines than the more prestigious places. For instance, I think it'll be far cooler to be in this special issue than other poems I've had placed in larger magazines. And while my university might not recognize it, I think more highly of my work published in Caffeine Destiny than what appears elsewhere more reputable.

It's such a small world, really, this whole poetry business thing, that it gets to be pathetic to be engaged in publishing pissing matches, whether it's comparing grants, contests, presses, programs, and magazines. We (meaning those of us in the poetry world) are too inconsequential for these tempests to matter, and I kind of like it that way--remaining in the margins is what grants poetry its only power in our culture.

Yes, I realize that those of us privilege some margins over others, as if we can be the toughest, most irreverent, or if we can be representative of the most oppressed--but those are just sad pissing matches, too. It's all margin as far as I can see, unless you happen to have been Mattie Stepanek, and who really wants that main mainstream?

05 July 2005

William Logan and Goofball Poetics

In the current The New Criterion, William Logan writes "The Great American Desert," an omnibus review on John Ashbery and other poets in his wake. It's a witty piece of writing, and quite nasty--it takes up a conservative perspective that poetry reviews have been far too kind over the last thirty years. Time to take no prisoners.

Logan praises Ashbery lavishly, a familiar set-up for lambasting sycophants who mimic the master without really understanding the depth and for discrediting pretenders who could not maintain Ashbery's consistency. In Logan's cross-hairs, he goes after Dean Young:

The quality of whimsy is not strained. It falleth from Ashbery like the gentle rain—and it falleth on a lot of young poets now, students in the School of Goofball Poetics, boys who cut their teeth on Ashbery and Charles Simic and James Tate and now show little interest in any poems written before Dada came to town. Dean Young’s sixth book, Elegy on Toy Piano
, is fairly representative of the younger generation, full to the gills with geegaws and thingmabobs and dojiggers, but one tradition embraced is a lot of tradition rejected.

Logan then goes onto a predictable diatribe, detailing the simple-mindedness and facile quality of these pseudo-Dada experiments. He then goes after the current "not-it" girl, Jorie Graham, citing her complete lack of humor--as if that took insight. He continues with exposing the inconsistency in Kevin Young's poems (and again, as if that were a stretch) and on the numbing simplicity of Ted Kooser's poetry (and again, what a limb Logan goes out on!). He closes with a hardly startling paean of praise to Richard Wilbur.

Thus, Logan frames his argument with two "incompatible" poets, the discursive, breezy, improvisational Ashbery and the understated, masterful, and formal Wilbur. This is the critic's maneuver to show that he can appreciate all kinds of poetry, that his tastes are large. Once this is framed, the critic is at leave to search and destroy without compunction. Graham, with all the controversy Foetry has exposed (hers is the unhappy case that gives those watchdogs the greatest legitimacy) in regarding her unethical judging of poetry contests, and with all the burden of praise she received in her youth, is probably the biggest and easiest target to attack these days. He chastises Graham, specifically, for giving up her poetry of the minutiae and for adopting the posture of the propagandist. This reminds me of the attacks that the Partisan Review unleashed on Muriel Rukeyser, that the documentary poet became the poster girl poet during World War II. In other words, Graham has turned her back on a former poetics, trying for a grand sweep.

The attack on Kooser seems to come out of desire to chastise the Academy for granting this unassuming poet the mantle of U. S. Poet Laureate, and then a Pulitzer on top of it. Logan simply plops Kooser into the "aw shucks" school of poetry, the accessible, pleasing, monosyllabic verse of William Stafford. Kooser, like Graham, is a sell-out, according to Logan. Logan wistfully notes that Kooser used to have a hard, sardonic eye toward his subject matter--and here we have the New Critic's love of the hard, dry image, the unsentimental--but now he's gone soft on the Great American Desert.

His dismissal of Kevin Young is brief and predictable. News flash: Kevin Young's poetry is uneven!! Not quite getting the humor, mocking Young with his own brand of "noir" speak, Logan charges that Young's Black Maria fails because he's simply not up to the task. He just as casually dismisses Dean Young, simply for being a lightweight, a goofball, someone without bottom.

What's intriguing about this review is not whether or not Logan is on target about any of these particular poets and their books, but the pure posturing that upholds this omnibus. The frame is pre-fabricated, easy, and the content is sniping, snide, and complacent. Yes, there are the gestures toward fairness, that Logan may have read some of the poems with deep attention, but all of it ends up being the kind of display that cheapens criticism. Oh, we can call it polemic, admire here is a critic who is taking a stand against mediocrity--a guy who isn't afraid of pointing out the frauds of the poetry business. But that stance undercuts its integrity. It's fun to read, and we enjoy the meanness and superiority, but it is finally glib: worldly but tiresome .

Georgia

Boise State's first game this year will be against Georgia at Athens.

While I think Boise State played (and lost) to a team better than Georgia last year--Louisville in a memorable Liberty Bowl game--this game does represent a threshold for the Broncos. Boise State's reputation is that it is a good mid-major program, but it cannot yet compete against one of the elite football programs. There's a lot to support that perspective. Boise State has yet to beat an SEC team, and they have only beaten two BCS Conference teams in its history: Oregon State and Iowa State. Those wins were notable in Bronco history, but they were hardly earth-shattering in the college football world.

Under coach Mark Richt, the Georgia Bulldogs have retained their old luster under the Vince Dooley years. He's an exceptional coach, motivator, and recruiter. Georgia has been a legitimate top 6 team over the last four years. With the loss of their starting quarterback, defensive end, wide receivers, and inside lineback to the NFL draft, the Bulldogs are expected to have a slight drop, likely a top 15 initial ranking, perhaps third or fourth best in the SEC. I expect the Bulldogs to beat those expectations--their drop isn't so precipitous with their own talent, and teams like LSU, Florida, and even Tennessee are over-hyped. I think Georgia will have a legitimate shot at the SEC crown for 2005.

Having said that, I will be going to Athens with Carson, expecting a Bronco victory. While Georgia should slow down the Bronco running game, I think Boise will be able to do well enough with the run, as Georgia will likely try to overcompensate against BSU's mid-range passing game, which I don't think Georgia can stop. Boise State, on defense, will fall back on its tried and mostly true routine of putting eight in the box, blitzing on occasion, all to test the Bulldog quarterback, D. J. Shockley. I expect the Bulldogs to try to overpower Boise State with its big, experienced offensive line. Boise State won't stop Georgia, but I don't think Georgia's offense can be consistently productive against the Broncos, and so BSU will put some key stops on Georgia's drives.

The intangibles for me will be how focused the Broncos will be, after the loss to Louisville and before the 92,000 in Sanford Stadium; how the Bronco offensive line will perform; how often the Bronco defense can force long third-down situations for the Georgia offense; how the Broncos may be able to take advantage of the relatively weak Georgia special teams. Prediction? Boise State 35, Georgia 24.