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Michael Robbins
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Honored to be included on the long, long list of things you won't bother to read.
This is a weird, weird comment, so confused I don't know how responding could help, since what I wrote is crystal clear. How could I respond to someone who reads my piece & comes away with the belief that I think Eagleton or Robinson is an atheist????? I mean, we're talking basic reading comprehension here! Just, wow. And Wood, for all his sympathy, is unversed in theology, & doesn't realize that anti-onto-theology is in fact an established religious intellectual tradition, from Maimonides to Marion. As for snobs, you realize I'm quoting Les Murray? Yeah, they're snobs, obviously, & they don't confine their ignorance to fundamentalism (read the Hart essay I linked to or don't bother replying to this post, since if you haven't read it, there's no conversation for us to have). How in God's name, if you'll pardon the expression, you can have missed the relevance of Robinson or Eagleton to my argument (clue: they both have argued successfully that the New Atheists' arguments are intellectual garbage) is absolutely beyond me. Just mind-blowingly strange.
This is ... well, it's genius. Or ... MADNESS. No, wait, got carried away: definitely genius.
Puns worth noting: "redress," "assiduously."
Re #1: Cf. Ellmann, Man & the Masks, 241-42.
Gotta say, cut through JTJ's self-satisfied patter, he's got a point, & so does JSC. I'm convinced, pardner. Sorry.
So that's what I've been doing wrong. Never much cared for cole slaw.
This is lovely. Looking forward to yr posts, JD.
One of these days you are going to read all the poems, Anthony, all the poems there are. On that day you will agree with everything I have ever said or am likely ever to say.
Ah, Craig just wrote to inform me r. of the n. stands for Revenge of the Nerds. Of course. Of course.
And let me say it was a joy to blog here this week. Many thanks to David & Stacey.
When I was a wee bairn in the seventies, a mass-market paperback called The Poetry of Rock was often to be found among the macramé and marijuana seeds. This anthology was a weird little bible to me, its concordances the records that were always lying around with their mystically resonant titles—Aja, Slider, Sticky Fingers, Dixie Chicken—and glorious gatefolds. I’d pore over lyric sheets the way Harold Bloom claims he immersed himself as a child in Blake and Hart Crane. My earliest act of literary exegesis was attempted when I was eight or so, as I listened again and again to a secondhand eight-track cassette of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, trying to understand what it could mean to know “how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.” Paul Muldoon writes of Leonard Cohen, “his songs have meant far more to me / than most of the so-called ‘poems’ I’ve read.” The list of artists of whom I could say this seems long until I remember why “most” of the “poems” I read are “so-called.” Popular music—rock and roll at first, soon followed by pop, country, jazz, disco, R&B, the blues, soul, hip-hop, metal—has been for me less a passion or obsession than what Kenneth Burke said poetry was: equipment for living. I remember listening to “Tumbling Dice” as a teenager and wondering whether even the Stones themselves understood what perfection they had achieved. I didn’t get people who simply put music on in the background as they talked or read or ate. You had to, yes, immerse yourself in it, like a religious mystery. In college, before I quit drinking, I rarely got laid, in part (only in part) because the end of the night would inevitably find me pressed against a stereo or jukebox, trying to filter out the sounds of a party or bar so I could concentrate on the Ramones. It was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. Rock and roll is, among other things, our profoundest celebration of the ridiculous. Reading The Poetry of Rock again decades later, I was impressed by how self-aware it is. I’d assumed I would find it a kitschy cash-in, radio wisdom for the Carlos Castaneda set, full of wimpy crap like “The Sound of Silence.” That excretion is indeed to be found within the anthology’s pages, but for the most part editor Richard Goldstein, a rock critic for the Village Voice, was too savvy to fall for the sententious philosophizing of callow young folkies like Paul Simon and Phil Ochs. Goldstein says of the latter’s unreadable “Crucifixion” that it is “infuriating in its insistence on expressing everything in allegorical terms.” Meanwhile, interpreting Dylan is like “running a U.S.O. in Hanoi”; Procol Harum’s lyrics “reek of random allusions and post-graduate funk”; “you can almost feel the lurch of brakes between the lines” of the Beatles’ “In My Life.” For Goldstein, rock “poetry” is about the ability “to express the forbidden within the context of the permissible.” “Poetry” poetry can, on... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Yes. The only translation really. Well except for Tyndale's. But it kind of is Tyndale's.
Thank you, Kimberley!
(1) John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead. Years go by, perfectly good records are released that you like and listen to a lot, then something like Supreme Clientele or Arular comes along, and you realize everyone else has been treading water. Game changed. That's what this collection of essays feels like. Not since DFW has anyone even approached this level of the form. It's my favorite record of the last ten years or so. If I weren't a lazy bastard, I'd buy a bunch of copies and hand them out on street corners like Lee Harvey freeing Cuba. Read Sullivan's best essay, on the Christian rockfest Creation, here. (2) The Daily, culture section. I don't think anyone reads The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's iPad-only newspaper. Making almost none of your content available on the internet, not even behind a paywall, is an interesting business strategy. And I wish Rupert Murdoch spectacular failure in everything he is and does. But for some reason—well, because someone was savvy enough to hire Sasha Frere-Jones as the culture editor—The Daily contains some of the best writing on music and culture-type stuff around. Read Zach Baron's HST retrace "Fear and Self-Loathing in Las Vegas" and tell me it doesn't deserve a Pulitzer. Or a Grammy. (3) @TriciaLockwood. Tricia is a dear friend, but even if she were evil like @rupertmurdoch I would have to admit that she is the funniest person on earth. She is the funniest person on earth, people. Big blue ball? You live on it? Get with the program. Here is an article about her famous, famous tweets, and here are a couple of her poems. Tricia's first book of poems, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, will be published by Octopus in the summer and I suggest you start camping out in front of Walmart now. (4) Lana Del Rey, "Video Games." Rob Harvilla in Spin says all that need be said: "'Bob Dylan' is not his real name. The 'Ramones' were not related. 'Sun Ra' was from Alabama, not Saturn. The Strokes' dads are not plumbers. 'Rick Ross' … look, we don't have time for this." (5) Jeffrey Foucault and Lisa Olstein, Cold Satellite. This record—a collaboration between the folky-but-not-too-folky Foucault (music) and the terrific poet Olstein (words)—didn't get enough attention. It sort of breaks the wind-up dinosaur I have instead of a real beating heart. A satellite has stopped transmitting. It has gone cold. "Drive to the end of River Road, there's nothing out there but an old army base, couple of missile silos. You can feel the wind on your face. When there's no wind you can hear the wires sing. The first time you might get frightened. It doesn't sound like anything." Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I like that way of putting it, David. Thanks. I'm glad you liked the piece. What translation of Genesis are you using? Btw, I might be a little late with my post tomorrow, I've got a long day of teaching. But I'll put something up.
... except to note that, yes, of course there are now hierarchies of atheism, some more intellectually respectable than others. Or rather, there always have been. That's what the post is about, in fact. Read the Hart article I link to, & Marilynne Robinson too. Not trying to claim "authority." They provide context that you would find useful.
Last time I saw Ange, we agreed not to discuss Seidel further. It's sort of like a marriage. Thanks, Spencer. Say hi to good Peter Henry for me.
Where did I say there isn't "a large Christian population that wants to legislate belief"? Where did I say "a benign Christian religious segment is predominant in this country"? You keep responding to imaginary interlocutors. Non sequiturs are fun, but responding to them is boring. Look, I live in Mississippi. You don't have to tell me about the Christian right. But my post. Was not. About. Them. Can't make it any clearer. You don't know anyone on the Christian left. OK. I'm sorry about that. They exist. Never said they made up a majority. Done with this now.
Amen, Amy. I replied ad hominem to Alex via email, which is where that stuff belongs. Well, actually, I should have ignored it. I'm only human.
The fans are mutual, Sina. See you soon.
As I said to the excitable alex c above: Why would you post this comment when I clearly say I'm talking about scientism & about the New Atheism, in particular, and not about science & atheism per se??
Alex, you haven't read the post. I wrote "It is always necessary to distinguish science from scientism" for a reason. Then there's the whole part where I said "this perplexity is, obviously, not confined to the religiously-minded." So, I made yr points for you in the post. The post isn't about atheism, it's about a particular brand of atheism. Read what I wrote again. I agree with most of what you say about science. Why would you post this comment when I clearly say I'm talking about scientism & about the New Atheism, in particular, and not about science & atheism per se??
Most of the poets I know are atheists. Hell, most of the people I know are atheists. Given that only 1.6 percent of Americans self-identify as "atheists," I conclude that I live in a bubble, like most hypereducated aesthetes on the liberal-left end of the political spectrum (I realize that's redundant). To their credit, most of the atheists I know don't consider themselves to be super-special people who should get together and crow about how much smarter they are than all the dimwits who fall for old fairytales about their big daddy in the sky, which is what Daniel Dennett would have them do (consider the self-triumphalism of the ReasonFest conference). I have nothing at all against either a philosophically-informed atheism or a casual atheism that arises from a simple lack of religious temperament. There is little that annoys me as much as that smug atheism whose adherents refer to themselves as "freethinkers" or "brights." I have met a lot of these people, and not one—not a single one—has ever had the slightest idea what he was talking about. Perhaps my anecdotal experience is misleading. Perhaps there are scores of self-described freethinkers who know the history of the concept of reason, who have read Aquinas and Kierkegaard and Jonathan Edwards and Karl Barth, who can refute the countless historical errors and category mistakes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins as handily as David Hart and Mark Johnston can. But if there are, they're keeping a low profile. And I'm confused about why they would associate themselves with an intellectually bankrupt movement (Johnston rightly calls them "undergraduate atheists"). Because there is an honorable atheism, a school of real thought to which atheists can lay claim. Hart puts the point this way: The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche. How much more immediate and troubling the force of his protest against Christianity seems when compared to theirs, even more than a century after his death. Perhaps his intellectual courage—his willingness to confront the implications of his renunciation of the Christian story of truth and the transcendent good without evasions or retreats—is rather a lot to ask of any other thinker, but it does rather make the atheist chic of today look fairly craven by comparison. Nietzsche would laugh at the idea that the human animal could free itself from delusion by seeking an ontological foundation in the natural sciences. Because the idea is laughable. I say nothing about what I myself believe—belief is rather overrated as a point of contention in these matters. As the academic theologian whose conversation James Wood relates has it, "I don't know what I believe, at the moment" (although I agree with the religious affairs journalist also quoted by Wood that "not believing in heaven and hell is a prerequisite for serious Christian belief"). And cf. Geoffrey Hill, in A Treatise of Civil Power: "not believe, hope." Fundamentalism, whether Christian or Islamic or atheistic,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2012 at The Best American Poetry