Sunday, April 8, 2007

Any Press is Good Press

In this week's New York Times Book Review, Derek Walcott's new edition of selected poems gets mostly savaged in this review. The reviewer, a poet and critic named William Logan, at times seems complimentary. He praises Walcott's use of landscape, mostly. But everything else is tinny, false, and didactic, in Logan's view.

Now Walcott is not one of my favorite poets. I like him, but I have never been able to delve deeply into his work. I liked his take on the Homeric epic when I read it in grad school, but a book of his is languishing on my shelf as we speak. So, it was interesting for me to read this review, simply because I've not seen a poet ragged on so completely in a review in recent times. I want to feel bad for Walcott, but Logan's critiques seems so pithy and apt.

For instance, Logan writes, "Overstuffed with images, his languid, occasionally lackadaisical style is more in love with words than with what they represent. He’s a better poet when just mulling things over, in a louche beachcomber-ish way — when he talks politics, the taste seems bitter in his mouth."

Or in another section, "The poet too often borrows the academic’s gassy editorials (“the politicians plod / without imagination”) and self-service sentiments (“poetry is still treason / because it is truth”). If he had not invented himself, academia would have had to invent him."

The review is so negative, that it is intriguing to me. I want to pick up the new book, just to see if Logan's right. This review should sell a lot of books, in only the way that a thrashing review can.

1 Comment:

poet with a day job said...

God - Logan just pans everything...what's with him?