Question: Now, what poetry magazine out there would ever publish a review like the following?
Answer: The American Dissident. Period.
Review of an Unusually Lame Review
Ever read the poetry reviews in the Washington Post and New York Times? If not, take a gander. You might be surprised by the level of innocuousness… or perhaps not, that is, if you’re familiar with the poetry establishment. “‘When our souls are happy,’ Charles Simic has written, ‘they talk about food.’ When my soul is happy, often enough, I want to talk about Mr. Simic,” states Dwight Garner in his latest New York Times review on several new Simic books.
My review here is not about Simic, but rather about one of his blind fawners. In fact, one must wonder if Garner is a paladin for publishers: his review is scarcely longer than a lengthy back-cover blurb. I’d copied it several weeks ago with the thought of sketching a cartoon on Simic, but I’d already done several, so that thought quickly evaporated. Finally, I got down to looking at it. Garner notes Simic’s stuff is “comic and elegiac” with a dash of “old world sensibility.” Now, wouldn’t it be nice for once to read about a poet who’s stuff was hard-core truth telling and quite upsetting to the literary established order? Sure, tell me about it. The beginning sentence of Garner’s review should have been a line from Simic’s most potent verse. Well, perhaps it was.
The next indication of Simic’s potency, or rather impotency, as admired by Garner, is the following: “In his very good new book of poems, ‘The Lunatic,’ for example, a spring day makes him so happy that, even if he had to face a firing squad, he’d ‘Smile like a hairdresser/Giving Cameron Diaz a shampoo.’ Oh, yeah, now I really want to read that book! I’ll have to run down to the local library to see if it has a copy. But am I dreaming? For such verse, Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a MacArthur fellowship! Ah, but Garner informs that earlier Simic had written a “nearly perfect collection” in 2007 in celebration of his having been anointed Poet Laureataster of the US Congress. Talk about a dysfunctional Congress! In fact, the latest GAO report on the Library of Congress seems to have indicated precisely that! Too bad, Garner does not provide a “nearly perfect” line of verse from that collection to entice us to read it.
Finally, the other book reviewed is a prose collection, The Life of Images. “Yet what’s really special about this book is that it demonstrates what a melancholy baby this poet is, in all the best ways,” notes Garner who is perhaps so blinded by his love of Simic that he doesn’t even realize the inanity pouring out of his own pen. Perhaps he too is a “melancholy baby”? How not to LOL. Perhaps a cartoon of both of them in diapers singing Van Morrison’s “Melancholia” might be a good idea. Hmm. So, Simic was “an early foodie.” Whoopee! One really has to wonder how someone like Garner manages to get his hagiographies published. Oh, yeah, I forgot, the high standards of the New York Times… and paladin of publishers.