Jean of the Fountain, one of the florets of the French literature had however affirmed it: “nothing is used for to run, it is necessary to leave at point” a maxim finally applied by London which, launched tardily in its Olympic countryside, gained with the sprint the organization of Plays 2012 vis-a-vis in Paris, engaged as for it in a long marathon. In vain. The English capital was right of its French rival, finally, by 54 votes against 50.
My quoting of Blake in response to Ron Silliman’s quoting of Whitman was of course spurious. The general trend of English poetry (and culture generally) is the important thing, not a few unusual individuals; and the English are certainly often suspicious of people who are intellectually, politically or religiously enthusiastic.
I think what bugs me about it, actually, is the whole business of tying poetry to nationhood. Silliman isn’t just describing trends; he’s taking one part of the poetry written in America and claiming it as the true American Poetry, and rejecting the rest of it as being American merely by unfortunate geographical coincidence. And the idea that Frost’s poetry is not American is just – well, silly.
And since the Avant/SoQ distinction is a very broadly applicable one (as it has to be, to cover 150 years of literature), why stop there? Just as Frost is, presumably, English, I guess André Breton must be American. I’m sure he’d have been thrilled to know it.
Silliman isn’t alone in this, of course – the folks on the other side of the fence do exactly the same thing. Both sides try and fight for some kind of notional ownership of American Poetry. I’m not, btw, making the familiar argument that Americans are parochial. I just think that fighting to establish the ideological purity of a nation’s art is an activity best left to dictators. By all means, let Ron Silliman and Ted Kooser knock seven shades of shit out each other in an attempt to decide who has the better recipe for poetry, but I can’t see why either of them need to wrap themselves in the flag to do it.
I went to see War of the Worlds today.
I really enjoyed it. The plot is ludicrous (but blame H G Wells for that), and Spielberg can’t resist making the ending just a shade happier than necessary, but it was genuinely grim at times – there’s a real apocalyptic feel to it. An obvious comparison would be Independence Day, where the wiping out of a large chunk of the human race is played for laughs – let’s blow up the White House! And Sydney Opera House! WotW, although it’s essentially a summer blockbuster, treats the destruction with an underlying seriousness. In fact, it occurs to me now – once the alien attacks get going, I don’t think there’s a single joke or comic moment. Which is genuinely unusual.
Lots of people have pointed out that it’s a post 9-11 movie, and there are some direct references – Cruise comes in after the intial attack covered in white dust, and we see boards covered in photos and names of missing people. But it also feels like Spielberg has drawn on the experience of making Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. It often feels, in other words, like a war movie as much as a horror movie.
Having said that – it is a movie that sets out to scare you. Spielberg still knows how to ratchet up the tension and make you jump. One thing I noticed was that the kind of threat kept changing. He uses different scenarios (a chase, a race against time, a mob scene, hiding behind the furniture to avoid the monster) so that he’s trying to scare you in different ways, and the enemy never gets overfamiliarised. The decision to keep the focus very narrowly on Cruise and his family is a good one, too. It makes the atmosphere claustrophobic and you never feel the hero has any control of the situation.
A classy piece of work, and a reminder of just how talented Spielberg is.