Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Anne Winters Challenge

Bit of culture for us. And who doesn't like poetry? Link via the title for full story - PolPop

Should a Marxist poet be stylistically ornate?

By Dan Chiasson

Anne Winters is one of the scarcest talents in American poetry. Winters is the author of two books of poems, The Key to the City and the new The Displaced of Capital, published 18 years apart. The books themselves are slim, even by the standards of poetry books. Her reputation comes to rest on perhaps a dozen poems written over the course of 30 or so years. All of these poems take New York City as their primary subject, and all of them are written from an inveterately leftist, even Marxist, point of view. There are good and expert and delightful things throughout all of Winters' poems, but these dozen or so poems about New York are her best, and a few of these are so good that they do what R.P. Blackmur says great art does: They "enlarge the stock of available reality."

To get the flavor of a Winters poem, you need to put two very unlike, even incompatible, things together: a stern-faced and rather old-fashioned Marxism and a poetic style seemingly exempt, self-exempted, from her own Marxist critique. The Marxism governs her choice of subjects: In her New York, there are two types of people—the type that lives in Connecticut and the type that lives in squalor. When she writes a poem about seeing Tosca at the Met, it's four lines about Puccini and 10 lines about the guy who works in the sewers under the building. She sees the world in terms of economics and sees economics as a force as willful and vengeful as a Greek god. The boy at the green-grocer's village was razed, his country "de-developed" because of its debt to the First World. People end up in crudely partitioned apartments under the bridge and not because they spun a roulette wheel and came up bust; they live that way because people like you and me have an interest in keeping them poor. There is indignation in this stance and a strong suspicion that art is one of the surpluses created by other people's labor. . .


Post a Comment

<< Home