Sunday, November 13, 2005

Poetry: Orr on Keillor - Elitism vs. Popluism

Excerpt from Hit Parade by David Orr on Garrison Keillor's new anthology: Good Poems for Hard Times.
"But great poets often produce mediocre work, bad poets can be surprisingly good, and very good poets are frequently no better than consistently above average - all of which is to say that it's far more difficult to isolate "great poetry" than Kleinzahler (and most critics) might like to believe. We're forced to live with a chaos of styles and a muddle of best guesses. This makes everyone uncomfortable; we're much happier when we can have well-worn arguments about populism and elitism, about Good Poems and High Brows. But what Elizabeth Bishop once said about knowledge may be equally said of poetry itself; that it is "dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free"; not a sure matter of sides, but a fleeting balance of currents. The best we can do - the best we have ever been able to do - when faced with the words "Good Poems" in a book's title, is to turn the page hoping to say yes they are, or yes they were, or yes (believe it or not) they will be."