Vouched Title Involved in Israeli Poetry Controversy

16 Nov

No joke.

In a recent post at the Ball State English Dept. blog, Peter Davis regales us with tales of how his collection Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! (carried on the Vouched Indy table) is at the center of an “Is it really poetry?” debate that’s currently shaking the Israeli literary world to its very core. Or something.

My second book of poems, Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!, was translated into Hebrew and, this past summer, published in Israel. Of course, I thought this was very cool. At the release party, I read some poems, via Skype, to an Israeli audience. I was on a computer screen held up by a guy onstage who was wearing a costume that made him look like a giant puppet. It was funny.

Soon after the release party, a number of Israeli reviews started coming in. And this is where it gets interesting: some were very critical of the book because they didn’t think that the book was actually poetry! They thought it might be something else entirely, but certainly not Poetry.

My father-in-law is a dentist and knows nothing about poetry. He read Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! and said he liked it. He told me, “I think I get it, but I’m not sure.” I said, “Then you get it. That’s good enough.” I told him about the Hebrew translation and the charge that I wasn’t writing poetry. He said, “Well, they can’t prove that.”

Read the rest of the controversy over at the BSU blog.

If you want to form your own opinion about it, I encourage you to check out Peter’s book yourself. Oh hey, look. Here’s a link to get it from Bloof Books.

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11 Responses to “Vouched Title Involved in Israeli Poetry Controversy”

  1. thebardonthehill November 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Much of what is written today under the name “poetry” isn’t poetry and the reading public has been turned off.

    • ce. November 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

      How do you mean? What do you define as poetry, or as a poetry that the reading public would turn back on to?

      • thebardonthehill November 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

        I’m not speaking specifically about the poetry referenced in your article – I didn’t check that. But poetry that turns the public off is poetry without rhyme and rhythm, that is so obscure a crowbar must be used to pry any meaning out of it; “poetry” that is not poetry at all, but prose disguised by breaking it into lines or verses. I wrote this poem about such stuff:

        http://thebardonthehill.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/the-emperor-poem-by-dennis-lange/

        • Nicholas Liu November 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

          A McGonagall for our times. “Rides streets”, eh? Can’t let that “rhythm” slip away from you, I guess.

          • ce. November 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

            Let’s keep it clean, Nicholas. I don’t personally agree with that prescription of what poetry is, but there’s no need for snark.

          • Nicholas Liu November 18, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

            That prescription carries inescapable, offensive implications for the poetry written by others–certainly Davis’s and (less relevantly) mine. The commentator may pretend to be making only abstract statements, but that does not make them substantively less personal or insulting. At least my snark is honest.

          • ce. November 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

            Right, but his prescriptive opinion, however insulting its implications, at least says something, moves the conversation forward. Your snarkiness is doing little more than being insulting, however honest.

        • ce. November 18, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

          I appreciate your opinion, Dennis, but I have to admit, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Some of my best selling poetry titles don’t use the conventions of rhyme and rhythm as explicitly as you seem to prescribe.

          To a point, I agree with you. I’m not particularly interested in extremely experimental poetry or poetry that seeks to be more of a riddle than an attempt to express or communicate, but I think to be so prescriptive regarding “what poetry is” is detrimental to what poetry “could be.” I think it’s dangerous to pigeon hole poetry into such a specific definition that it doesn’t allow poetry to grow and move with the life and times it seeks to capture/express in language.

    • Nicholas Liu November 18, 2011 at 8:25 am #

      Thanks for sharing that insight, thebardonthehill. Surely identical sentiments haven’t been posted literally hundreds of times on comments threads all over the internet. Surely.

  2. bsuenglish November 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks for the link. Really intriguing topics we’ve got buzzing around the department.

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  1. Revisions for Poetry Friday « Write on the World - November 18, 2011

    […] Vouched Title Involved in Israeli Poetry Controversy (vouchedbooks.com) […]

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