Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Keillor's Joke at the Expense of Poets

On a poetry listserv I belong to, a debate rages today on the merit of Garrison Keillor's skewering of poets, poetry and especially women poets in his film, show and books. The man who once referred to Anne Sexton as a "hot babe" is taking a little heat of his own this morning in the interesting discussion I've been party to. Poetry Foundation's Ange Mlinko doesn't much like his satirical subjects either. Interesting way to get poetry into the news! I say if it makes even one person think about poetry, it's all to the good. Though I really don't like the way he dishes women poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore. "Bunheaded librarian"? Pul-eeeze!

5 comments:

  1. Rachel,
    I've not yet seen the film, nor perused this debate (beyond your report here) -- nor seen any instances of denegration of any poets (female or male) by Keillor. What I HAVE heard and enjoyed, over the years, have been installments from Keillor's delightful "The Writer's Almanac" (a daily literary radio spot lasting 5 minutes or a bit more) -- in which not only does he tip his hat respectfully toward a bevy of writers (including of course poets, women, and women poets), as occasioned by the calendrical swirl of birthdays. Keillor also recites a poem a day -- in this nationally-broadcast series of spots (heard early mornings, and again in evenings -- on, I'd hazard, most National Public Radio stations).

    His poem for today happens to be one by Maxine Kumin, "After Love."

    One may note writers as diverse as Bobbie Ann Mason, Robbie Burns, Barbara Tuchman, Meher Baba, Richard Brautigan, Ayn Rand, Thomas Merton, Galway Kinnell, and Gertrude Stein [to drop a few stray names from literally hundreds] among those honored in turn -- in terms of affectionate and respectful recollection -- by this veritable humanitarian of the airwaves.

    If Keillor may not (as your note suggests) be beyond poking some fun at a miscellany of writers [I daresay males are likely not exempt from the treatment; -- though it would need more thorough scholarship than mine at present to sort out the issue with true judiciousness], arguably he somewhat earns this right by the yoeman's bestowal of laurels [mixed metaphor notwithstanding] he unstintingly crowns many a writer with, day in & day out.

    I'd propose all this counts for something . . .

    2-cents from the peanut gallery,
    d.i.

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  2. I've been told by many people, Keillor doesn't like Eliot. That's all I need to hear to make me wonder what's the hell's the matter with him. I've been told by several people who've seen the movie that's it's very good, that Mr. Keillor is pulling everybody's leg. Me? I can't wait to go see the movie.

    -blue

    I'm told, conflict sells tickets. Must be true.

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  3. Blue,
    I don't know. It seems to me that even T.S. Eliot at times didn't so much like T.S. Eliot. Must every writer be required to enjoy that particular bag of tricks? (Eliot has, I daresay, possibly rather waned from whatever cultural centrality he may have been presumed by some to occupy some 50 or 60 years ago.) For some of us, Stevens speaks more meaningfully; for others of us, somebody else does. Do you suppose the good Eliot to be a litmus test of writerly bona fides? Meseems you might have another think coming, as it were.

    hat-tips anyway,
    d.i.

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  4. I want to hear a report from the first poet I know who sees the movie. I plan to see it, even if it does make fun of adolescent poets. I'll see any movie with Meryl Streep in it.

    I love getting Writer's Almanac in my mailbox, despite the frustration of seeing poems by the same old poets way too often -- it seems as though his staff doesn't really have time to seek out a lot of new material. But the poems chosen are often a good quick read, and the program does manage to reach a lot of people. Gotta love him for that. Well, not love, but appreciate. Eliot or no.

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  5. David,

    It seems to me that you're denying Eliot's influence on American poetry. Yes, it's been a long time since Life magazine declared that "Our age beyond any doubt has been, and will continue to be, the Age of Eliot." And I'm not saying that every writer MUST enjoy his "bag of tricks" (cute, that, way of marginalizing one of the dominant forces in English-language poetry of the twentieth century). But to have such a passion as Keillor's for poetry and to exclude one of the last century's giants, yes, makes me wonder what's wrong with 'im. Or maybe I'm leg pulling? Now that wouldn't be fair, would it?

    -blue

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