Poet Laureate

Checking out our new U.S. poet laureate Louise Gluck (daughter of the inventor of the X-Acto knife, and I'm going to figure out a clever comment about that if it kills me), I came across the following statement by the Laureate herself, which made me like her: The poet is supposed to be the person who can't get enough of words like "incarnadine." This was not my experience. From the time, at four or five or six, I first started reading poems, first thought of the poets I read as my companions, my predecessors, from the beginning I preferred the … [Read more...]

Declining Literacy 1: Man Plus Moment

For instance, let's take up the question which, in various forms, has been the focus of several recent Arts Journal entries: to use Douglas's wording, Why has classical music fallen off the cultural literacy menu? Why do people who still take an interest in recent novels and paintings know so little about recent music, without feeling at all ashamed that they don't know? Why has classical music ceased to be something cultured people care about, and why hasn't postclassical music replaced it? We truly don't know. This is a mystery. My usual … [Read more...]

Declining Literacy 2: Music’s Tower of Babel

Whether we're in a slump ot not, however, I can point to one obvious large obstacle to cultural literacy about recent music: an alarming disunity in the opinions of composers and critics, and even an incredible dearth of common reference points. We are in a radically splintered situation, in which the artistic figures who seem like gods to one group of musicians can sometimes be totally unknown to another group. For instance, it seems to me unquestionable that Robert Ashley, now in his 70s, is the leading, and most excitingly innovative, opera … [Read more...]

Remembering One’s Ignorance

"There are no accidents, there are no coincidences," wrote Jung. The day after Douglas McLennan asked me to consider starting a blog, I was moving some books, by chance including Thoreau's Walden. Usually when I run across it I can't resist starting to reread it. I'm now 17 years older than Thoreau was when he wrote Walden, and while he still strikes me as a brilliantly fresh, goodhearted, and highly literate fellow, as a more experienced writer than he was then I can now afford to condescend to some of his flights of verbal fancy that sound … [Read more...]