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  #11  
Old 10-12-2017, 09:52 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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That is so nicely said, Rogerbob. I also read it as a critique of values, but by someone who was uneasy or queasy about the platform for her criticism.

I also hope I am not being naive.
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  #12  
Old 10-12-2017, 09:56 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good morning Roger,

OK. Our worse than useless AT&T internet deleted a post I will now attempt to reconstruct, after, oh, eight minutes of futile hassling with technology. So:
You make a series of good points. To which I say:
1. I think it's hard to write about usury in modern Anglo-American poetry
without evoking Pound's usura passages.
2. Those passages seem a particularly weird choice.
3. I don't think I'm an anti-Semite in making those points.

Cheers,
John
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Old 10-12-2017, 11:28 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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"I think Sam thinks the poem has an antisemitic subtext, but ultimately I can't agree. Why should the subjects of money, capitalism, lending, borrowing, interest, etc., immediately suggest that Jews are involved, as opposed to a world full of bankers and capitalists of every religious and ethnic background? In fact, I think the reader who immediately associates this world with Jews is perhaps bringing his or her own pejoratives associations into the poem."

Bob, that Jews have historically been associated with money-lending and that this practice has been a major reason for anti-Semitism can't be denied. I believe it was the Catholic church that proscribed lending money "on use" for Christians. As you say, Graham's being half-Jewish herself makes the poem even more puzzling to me. But we've gone over this before.

I do think that she should bell her cat.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 10-12-2017 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 10-12-2017, 11:43 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R. S. Gwynn View Post
"I think Sam thinks the poem has an antisemitic subtext, but ultimately I can't agree. Why should the subjects of money, capitalism, lending, borrowing, interest, etc., immediately suggest that Jews are involved, as opposed to a world full of bankers and capitalists of every religious and ethnic background? In fact, I think the reader who immediately associates this world with Jews is perhaps bringing his or her own pejoratives associations into the poem."

Roger, that Jews have historically been associated with money-lending and that this practice has been a major reason for anti-Semitism can't be denied. I believe it was the Catholic church that proscribed lending money "on use" for Christians. As you say, Graham's being half-Jewish herself makes the poem even more puzzling to me.
So any critique of money-lending or finance in that sense must be tinged with anti-Semitism? That doesn't strike me as quite right. I took that you were suggesting anti-Semitic underpinning, and I myself think she may have been riffing on Pound in some way, but I don't take it that the natural conclusion is that what she produces is necessarily anti-Semitic.

Frankly, I'm surprised there haven't been more trenchant critiques given the financial crisis and the quickening slide into oligarchy.
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:17 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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George Soros, the Rothschilds, et al. have been regularly demonized, and it was even worse in 2009. Public perception is usually unfair and terrifying, but it does exist.
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:22 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R. S. Gwynn View Post

Bob, that Jews have historically been associated with money-lending and that this practice has been a major reason for anti-Semitism can't be denied.
I'm not doubting that, Sam, but I disagree with your conclusion that one therefore cannot speak of money-lending without being seen to reference Jews. Blacks have been stereotypically associated with watermelon, but it's still possible to write a poem about watermelon without being accused of an anti-black subtext.

I just think she deserves the benefit of the doubt here, absent any other reason in her life or poetry to attribute bigoted motives that appear (if at all) only in a subtext, which by definition isn't actually in the text but requires one to engage in speculative extrapolation. And in the case of JG, I don't think she writes to convey messages of any kind, but only to let her mind bounce around and try to be engaging and then to let the reader enjoy (if possible) the ride and form his or her own meanings.

I'm not defending the poem as poetry. I don't much like it. I'm just saying that I don't see it as evil.

The main thing I hold against her, by the way, is that she forcefully pushed me away from meter and rhyme many years ago when I was in her workshop, and she was far too persuasive, causing me to take an extended detour into free verse that I wish I had skipped. But I never got the slightest whiff of bigotry from her. She was a generous and passionate teacher with a diverse array of poetry students.
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  #17  
Old 10-12-2017, 12:31 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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"Bigotry" is not on the table, Bob. But an unfortunate complicity in it (channeling Pound, I assume) is bothersome. I think she has yoked two subjects together by violence--the death of a baby bird (I assume that's what it is) and global capitalism and its evils--tossed them into a salad of crudites and served it up. This is really not post-modernist, as someone has said; it's a classic high modernist collage technique, forcing the readier to make sense of the juxtaposition.
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  #18  
Old 10-12-2017, 12:47 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Sam: "it's a classic high modernist collage technique".
Yes, and again a Poundian echo. Maybe it's brave to take on Pound here; it doesn't do much for me.

Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 10-12-2017 at 12:50 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 10-12-2017, 01:17 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I agree that she wants to force the reader to do the heavy lifting. I believe I've read her in interviews confessing to just that, and it's not a prospect that ever appealed to me very much. If I want to think up stuff on my own, I don't need Jorie Graham to be there when it happens. I have my own brain to toss out jumbled and confusing associations for me. To me, the sort of writing that Jorie tends to do, for all its non-stop energy and breathlessness, is ultimately lazy.
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  #20  
Old 10-12-2017, 01:46 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Thanks, Roger, that seems like a pretty good description of Graham's aesthetics here.
I've been leafing through The Dream of the Unified Field, looking for a short poem I enjoyed, in order to post it. Was going to post "Jackpot", but The Georgia Review doesn't seem to make it available online. Anyway, the book has a fair bit I enjoyed reading, judging by my annotations. Maybe I like her older stuff more than her work post-1994.

Cheers,
John
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