Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brief Blog Reviews III: Isola di Rifiuti

The Brief Blog Review this month is of John Latta's Isola di Rifiuti, one of the best blogs I know on modern and post-modern literature, particularly but not exclusively poetry, particularly but not exclusively in English. If that sentence reads like an over-qualifying whittling-down, you will be surprised. Latta has been at this blog since 2006, and currently posts something like every other day; there is plenty to be said about mostly English mostly poetry mostly from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. There's no denying that Isola is a blog for the already-interested, and it does not hold your hand. You have to jump into the deep end, and flounder about. You have to follow your nose -- the best way of finding out what's interesting anyway. It is, Oh gorgeous thing!, a blog with footnotes. You will encounter names you have not heard of before, certainly writers whose work you have never read, and this even if you have been reading for decades. Every time I read a post I learn something about the tangle of biography, history, and literature that informs the crowded shelves of the used book shops where I eke out some of my living and much of my self-education. Every. Single. Time. I had not known, for instance, and would probably not have guessed, that Ronald Johnson, second-generation Black Mountain poet, so esteemed Dame Edith Sitwell's self-introduction, "Some Notes on My Own Poetry" as a document on a par with his American forebears Zukofsky and Olson. Johnson, whose enormous poem ARK stands in the great line of mystery literature, the poem as sacred text, all these years after that stopped being cool, was once described by Guy Davenport as "America's most important poet," though as of this writing Wikipedia (which includes this snippet of information) lists the entry for Johnson as a "stub." When I decided to review a literary blog after two theological ones, Isola more or less elbowed its way to the front of a long list of favorites by chancing to devote its most recent post to Davenport, one of the last great universalists in criticism, willing to take on all comers, and author of Geography of the Imagination, possibly the best collection of criticism in the 20th century. (I have a short review here.) Latta quotes William Styron about the opinion of an editor regarding Davenport's early fiction -- "he had never seen so promising a talent wasted in such a dubious, avant-garde style" -- a verdict which, with some caveats, I can imagine pertaining to Davenport's criticism too, if only because his essays so elegantly decline to stick to the point. They are exercises in a continual meandering that delimits its apparent subject mainly by veering away from it and then asymptotically approaching again. Not unlike Isola di Rifiuti itself, a blog that reads like someone thinking out loud. Latta has been thinking aloud for seven years now, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. He isn't dropping names to impress you, so if you don't understand at first, don't be put off. He's just taking for granted that you care about poetry and want to not be talked down to. Go over there and wander.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I am from Australia.
    I notice that John mentions Orpheus in his most recent posting.
    Please find an introduction to The Orpheum Trilogy via: