All boldfaced sections are Alfred Corn's statements; everything else is my response. Corn initiated the conversation on Facebook after, I assume, reading the post on my blog.
ALFRED CORN: “Oh, not only on Barot, but C. and McC. seem to have had a terrible influence on Ann Carson, Lowell, Marianne Moore, Eliot, Pound, Browning, Milton, and Dante, whose poems are chock-full of cultural references. Side-splitting, Steve.”
Steve Fellner: “I don't think your comment is fair. And for someone who has a history of being a forceful critic, I am surprised you didn't engage me a bit more substantially. I'm disappointed with the current poetry scene because a lot of people obey middle-class etiquette. In your criticism, you have a history of not passively giving everybody the thumb's up.
You could claim that that everyone influence everybody else, and vice verse, but to do so isn't a solid response to my argument. I'm obviously talking about the three of you in a SPECIFIC TIME FRAME OF GAY POETRY. According to your logic, I might as well have included Horace, Anne Sexton, and most of all Ogden Nash.”
ALFRED CORN: “Poems I write for free, but not criticism. Clearly you don't know my books well enough to make it interesting, otherwise you'd be able to distinguish between these two dated, culture-vulture poets. For the record, some of the poems are allusive, but the majority are written in "plain American, that cats and dogs can read," as M. Moore said.”
STEVE FELLNER: “Have I read ever single poem you ever wrote? No. But I have read a good number. And I have read secondary sources. I'm sure you have read the commentary as well, evidenced by your final statement-very reminiscent of what Thomas Disch wrote about your poems in Boston Review.
Although Disch offers what I'm sure to you is a more "interesting" ... Read Moreanalysis. My problem with his review is the respect he has for your poems ends up being used as a vehicle for him partly to condescend to those who are "plain" and "American." I hope you scolded him for that, and I mean that, in all seriousness.
Also: as I'm sure you would agree there is a different between the allusive and diction. It seems that you conflate the two, no?
I think what you extrapolated from my post is suspect. I do not think that just because a gay poet during a SPECIFIC historical moment is doing essentially the same thing as another poet means they're work is unnecessary. (I will concede McClatchy seems more interested in the employment of humor). A lot of poets need to be present at a specific point in time to collectively push things forward even if they're not transcending boundaries. As poets, like Bidart and Henri Cole, writers closer to your generation than me, seem to do.
For you it seems that the value of a poem is based on whether or not it lives forever. I don't agree. What matters is if it attempts to be as ethically and aesthetically beautiful as possible EVEN IF there is no reason for it to exist for an eternity.
Someone like Richard Howard has written poems that helped push things forward. But his dramatic personae poems will disappear (or already have) because they already have been done by Browning, his idol.
His translations will last tho.
One can achieve an ephemeral greatness. There's nothing wrong with that. That is important work. Invaluable in fact. It's just that it won't live eternally. There's nothing wrong with that.
I mean this exchange in the most good-natured way possible. If I didn't respect you, I wouldn't be writing about you on my blog.”
I've also written about Rick Barot much more extensively. If you're interested in a detailed review of his book Want, feel free to check out the link to a post on my blog.
New poem in The Cortland Review
5 weeks ago