Laura Mullen
VERSION notes Re: Verse
(Tense: tension / Verse: version)                            (page 8)


What’s bad about good poetry? Mostly what’s meant by good—unless you have been exposed to (and considered carefully as well as experienced) a wide variety of impulses, gestures, accomplished works and directions for inquiry—is normal or familiar. “What oft was thought…” and oft (in some slightly differing version) said (by someone you were told was important). We (!?!) have to be able to recognize the lines of community enacted by recognition, and to fearlessly and with interest approach what is not already in the repertoire, not already a set recognition safe within already activated frameworks, not a known (comfortable) operation. We have perhaps underestimated the way our comfort with the idea of the franchise impacts every aspect of culture. (Or say the franchise is a symptom?) Some part of us (wanting franchises, theme parks, episodes of the same series and “trusted” brands…) wants (or is being trained to want ?) to encounter the known, the familiar, again and again and again. Of course that’s a part of who we are (from tribal ritual to bed-time tale and back to natural cycle), but our ability to duplicate (from photograph to genetic code) has never been what it is now. Except in print—and so the tedium reproduced by the journal (nationally known and well-respected) which publishes mostly single strophes or quatrains and once an entire issue’s worth of poems all of which pretty much went: “I’m ill…and I’m reading Keats,”—is ancient, and we’re in it (how many billion served?) for the long haul. If history is the story of the victors (and it was, for some too-long while) so-called “good” art has also, too often, been another story about power. At some point we’ll learn to recognize doggerel in its currently celebrated high-middlebrow form, and be embarrassed when history exposes us as drunk on our own ability to wave the plastic around and give our orders: we’ll see ourselves then (and shudder) as avid (obese) diners on these empty calories, these canned, frozen, micro-waved and genetically modified “processed” foods. Check out some older poetry anthologies for proof, or—take the Louvre. Please! Much of what was treasured there will, trust me, go into storage at some point, now that the Musee du quai Branly has brought what we thought of as “primitive art” closer, and the comparison with Islamic art (the Louvre opens a whole new wing in 2012—now there’s a political allegory in action…) will continue the march to make much of what we once thought of as “fine art” look like what it is: white weird awkward and only vaguely erotic kitsch.

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