Friday, November 20, 2009

Good Evening, Parishioners!

I'd only begun to read Jacob Mooney's blog a week or so ago. He's a very perceptive reviewer, so it's been a delightful experience. And though many bloggers start out with numerous postings in their first few weeks only to write more sporadically before abandoning the project altogether, I hope he blogs in verbose variation for a long time. I'd like to respond to a few misconceptions, and from differences in perspective, from his latest above linked contribution.

"I happen to think that the offended party (Table Music’s Chris Banks) has more than ample reason to be offended by Palmu’s cursory reading, but that’s not quite the topic of this blog post."(Mooney)

I have no problem whatsoever with Chris Banks being offended by my review. I also have no problem with an alternative interpretation, one that disagrees with mine. Maybe I'd even learn something from it. But I do have a problem with the suggestion that the review was compromised by its limited word count. (And since you included this tidbit, then by definition, it is an important part of the post.) I could have written another 2, 000 words on Cold Panes, but because I'm doing this for free -- since (for example) there is one book published every one minute and forty seconds in the U.S., and since reviewing poetry books plays only one part of my fascinating gadabout multi-faceted life, which include many enjoyable endeavours not linked to the world of books at all -- I not only deferred, but positively demurred, to an extended exposition. Not all short reviews are supposed to deal in sophisticated detail. Another 2,000 words would have added more examples from the poems themselves, more nuanced observations. But the tone would have been the same. I outlined my salient impressions of the book.

"This is why following the flow of banal witticisms and counter-witticisms over the past few weeks has been so numbingly disappointing. Because it’s not really a conversation about any of the things it pretends to be about."(Mooney)

Amen! Though, from my side, I never pretended it was about intentionality vs execution, objectivity vs subjectivity. Banks started off with ad hominem, inserted the "intentionality" card as his lone dust-in-the-eyes substantive ploy, then continued with unintentionally ironic assumptions, misrepresentations, off-topic charges, contradictory assessments. Look, I'm not above sparring with someone who's upset with a negative review who then goes on a sweeping condemnatory paranoid spree. It's highly entertaining, and by my incredible mercury-spiking Stat-Counter hits, it obviously is so for others, as well.

Your heart is in the right place, Mr Mooney, when you talk of the importance of keeping to reviews of critical engagement, but my blog was virtually ignored when I wrote, for a year and a half, columns on any number of Canadian poetry collections, recent or in the past 20 years, avant-garde or formal, from celebrated poets or from those whose obscurity matched October evening slugs under a pile of swept leaves. I'm all for writing reviews and for discussing those reviews, or reading and discussing others' reviews and books. Anybody else want to join in? (And by discussing poetry, of course, I don't mean unending author profiles, chit-chat, and thematic concerns, popular on a few other Canadian blogs.)

"It’s about two groups of people with a personal dislike for one another, one that I know only bits and pieces about, but that I understand has been going on for some time."(Mooney)

I haven't met my two adversaries in this particular to-and-fro. I haven't read any of Lemon Hound's poetry. I've read Banks' two books, I've read his two polemics, and I've read Lemon Hound's .... er.... contributions (to use a charitable word) over the past two weeks. It's just words on virtual pages, Mr Mooney. When the lights go out at the end of the eve or in the early morn, the last thing on my mind is what barbs my two opponents have been busy conjuring up while I sleep, guard down and vulnerable.

"We are a slightly more evolved sub-set of the species, us poets, I honestly believe that."(Mooney)

Do you really believe that? Sorry, that's bullshit. I've lived enough decades in enough circumstances, professions, social groups, settings, relationships, and have had long and various social connections with many poets (though not with a large "poetic community", whatever that means). I've been a very lucky man in that I've met, befriended, been intimate on many levels with, fought with, reconciled with, and have had a world of treasured memories of so many different non-poets of all kinds in my life. Being a poet means you're good with words. Full stop. Spiritual sensitivity and moral virtue has never been amplified, and certainly not exclusively identified, with being a poet, in my long experience.

"What I’m tip-toeing along the edges of is a public argument, a group of people in a restaurant calling each other out on long-held animosities."(Mooney)

Again, I hadn't given Chris Banks more than a few passing thoughts after reviewing his book a year ago until the past few weeks, when he came out guns-a-blazin' on his new blog. Animosity is a harsh word for this amusement, at least I can only speak for myself. I hope he recovers from the negative review (it has been a year, after all) and goes on to delight himself and (hopefully) others with his future words.

Thank you for your concerned post, Mr Mooney. Sincerely. And I echo, underline, red star, highlight, and applaud your words to engage seriously with others' poetry. Maybe when this particular rhubarb subsides, more attention will be paid to the words on the papyrus or Microsoft screen, and not so much with the reviewer's supposed dark motivations for writing them. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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