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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Entertainment Finally?

Strangeness alert: a paradox threshold, or is that irony watershed, or is that ambiguity tipping point, or is that satire level, or is that hypocrisy overload? - has been reached this week, with the unlikely, but nevertheless deserved news, as posted on Charles Bernstein's own worthwhile blog, that his latest, All The Whiskey In Heaven (a selected of 30 years poetry from FSG), has received an -A from Entertainment Weekly.

This is rich odd good news for Eyewear - since Eyewear modelled itself, in some ways, on a possible-world EW where poetry was as well-observed and perkily and glossily treated, as movies and music - in short, as if poetry could and did entertain a mass audience - though Eyewear has always operated on the understanding such a thing, if at all desirable, is barely possible in a capitalist secular world where celebrity is king - the Adorno problematic that the Language poets did so much to bring to our notice these last 30 or so years.

So how is it, then, that Bernstein finally makes the grade, and gets noted in such a mag (rag?) - and that he welcomes such a cross-over acceptance? This is the man who has often questioned the validity of a mainstream, public role for poetry, whose poetics, if not as rigorously austere and resistant to commodification as Prynne's, are nonetheless rebarbatively opposed to poems being absorbed into a reifying culture of consumption and hype. Is he mellowing, or accepting, his now-confirmed role as big new fish in the big new pond of American poetry? For, name me a male poet, over 50, yet younger than Ashbery, now working in America, more feted or discussed than he? Other than Muldoon, few. But -A? Surely, this book, which I was given on my birthday in Muscat, the other day, is A+ work all the way.
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