The Point Is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present

By Jerome McGann | Go to book overview

6
Private Enigmas and Critical Functions
With Special Thanks to the Poetry of Charles Bernstein

Interlocutors: Anne Mack, J. J. Rome, Georg Mannejc

He imagines a vast science, into the utterance of which the knower
would finally include himself—this would be a science of the ef-
fects of language.

—Roland Barthes par lui-même (1975)

GM: Doesn’t it bother you sometimes, this kind of writing? As if you had to be someone special to read it—as if it were meant for a coterie of initiates or a literary intelligentsia. Look at this:

Verdi and Postmodernism

She walks in beauty like the swans
that on a summer day do swarm
& crawls as deftly as a spoon
& spills & sprawls & booms.

These moments make a monument
then fall upon a broken calm
they fly into more quenchless rages
than Louis Quatorze or Napoleon.

If I could make one wish I might
overturn a state, destroy a kite
but with no wishes still I gripe
complaint’s a Godly-given right.1

What is one to say of such nonsense? I observe that each stanza is dominated by (introduced by) a distinct “literary” allusion: Byron is echoed in the first line, D. G. Rossetti in line five, and some nursery doggerel in line nine.2 But the absence of an integrating element among these three simple allusions is an in

-98-

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