Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Trains and Poetry

My posts on the transit strike struck a sour note on one blog. I was providing my subjective perspective on that particular day. Certainly I understand the argument being made against mine. And I feel somehow wrong not sticking up for the little guy. Of course, what, finally, does any worker have as leverage against his/her boss other than the ability to withhold his/her labor? The troublesome thing in this situation is that it’s not just the bosses who are affected. New Yorkers, and the inconveniencing of New Yorkers, were a part of the transit union’s leverage. We were a kind of bargaining chip in this scenario. The transit union meant us to blame the MTA for the strike, for forcing them to resort to striking. I suppose that makes sense, but it still left millions who had not power to help or hinder the strikers in the lurch. I think the union could have handled their PR better, perhaps done more to rally commuters to their side. I followed the reportage on the strike pretty closely, and still felt uninformed. Everyone, from the union Pres. to the MTA to Bloomberg and Pataki, just seemed hostile and stubborn. Not a good way to solve a problem in my mind.

I’m fine with having my argument refuted, but the thing that bugs me the most about the above-mentioned blog post is the person who felt that criticizing my musical tastes was a sound counter to my argument. I like Ani Difranco’s music, and have for a long time. Granted, her name carries some pretty silly associations, but she makes great music. I’m especially fond of the albums that feature the excellent band she put together at the very end of the 90’s. To anyone who thinks that’s lame, it’s your loss.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand: poetry. B and I spent the holidays with her family in AZ. For reading material, I brought along an interesting anthology from England’s Salt Press, VANISHING POINTS edited by Rod Mengham and John Kinsella. The book is subtitled “New Modernist Poetry,” making it an unusual take on the current state of experimental poetics. The editors want to draw a bold line from the high moderns to the present day. Mengham, in his introduction, claims that this selection of writers represents “a strand in recent poetry that has stayed in touch with the agendas of modernism; they are not postmodernist, but late modernist writers.” Both editors make the usual claims that their anthology represents experimental veins that other anthologists are too timid / unwilling to represent, which, given the truckload of recent anthologies of experimental poets, seem untrue and unnecessary. But, because the editors chose writers from many English-speaking countries, there are many interesting and surprising things to be found here. Alongside names that will be familiar to American readers, such as (recent )John Ashbery, Lisa Jarnot, and Peter Gizzi (who seems to have a strong following in England, for good reason) are a few less known American writers, such as Stephen Rodefer, who is my favorite find here, the author of cynical and slippery lines like these: “My future daughter or son / could undergo / a bone marrow transplant before birth / even if he she has my profile or not // I guess we know / how wonderful / life can be / at the end of the 20th century”. Also interesting is the English poet John Wilkinson, among many other notable inclusions. Overall, the tone is much more heady and hearty, perhaps too much so for my tastes. But I’ve been eager to get a look at the English take on experimental writing, and this book certainly offers a good view.

Alright, it’s late. I hope everyone’s had a lovely holiday so far. I did. Hung out with my hilarious soon-to-be niece and nephew, as well as the rest of B’s wonderful family. Now, with the trains running again, it’s time to head back to work.

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