Thursday, January 28, 2021

On Medium: There Was No Poem At Biden’s Inauguration

An article about how prose is passed off as poetry in an infantilized society.


  1. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 28, 2021 at 12:32 PM

    I may agree with you that we live in infantilized societies BUT it always like that with the big difference in what the type of infabtilization we are talking about. Conservs are notorious to PRETEND TO BE mature while progs even have this pretendness. This is part of reduction of art value to its minimal value as a "self expression". From fantastic archicteture to for example "abstract" self parodied paintings. Well, your abhorrence about modern arts was also of fascists and neonazis... you even can call it as degenerate ones or avoid do it. They also blame surprise recent jewish domination on western societies by the end of high culture as a nuclear culture and for course NEVER the capitalism because You know for them it is never to be blame.

    1. Well, I don't know how universal the infantilization and bastardization of art are. This process may be part of civilizational decay in something like Oswald Spengler's sense. Maybe all liberal, developed societies will resort to political correctness and to affirmative action, and will protect the mundanity of their conventions by marginalizing subversive art.

      Real poetry challenges the reader by being much more creative and attentive to detail than ordinary writing (prose). Gorman didn't challenge her audience like a true artist, but went for the lowest common denominator like the politicians that surrounded her.

    2. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 29, 2021 at 4:29 PM

      Post modernists use the argument that in every specific period of some art school in the past, always there was an ideological imposition like painting or writing about religion during the medieval period and in classical way during the renaissance. Thus, they believe today there is no ideological imposition at all, because people can self expressed in their favorite way. But we know that our current elites and many of the pioneers, who were jews, since Weimar culture, have imposed their anti classical or "modern" style. I don't believe this process was entirely organic. And i believe they are partially right due the enormous diversity of styles we have today but it's strongly related with pragmatic capitalistic mindset and also with one of the fundamental liberal feeling, the democratization of access and use of arts, education and sciences. Why or where capitalism fit with this?? Well, more cultural products being consumed more profit $$$ to the owners of production means.

    3. I think that was the argument of the Marxist Fredric Jameson's "Postmodernism, or, the Logic of Late Capitalism," although I haven't read it.

      I'm not sure, though, what it has to do with the difference between prose and poetry. Sure, a postmodern society would be more tolerant of variety, and perhaps standards would vanish as the goal would be equality of opportunity. I'd see this as infantilizing if it meant we could no longer tell the difference between real and fake creativity.

  2. I, too, found Gorman's composition insipid, even cringeworthy at times.

    I'm curious what you think about prose poetry as a genre in general.

    1. I don't read much of it, but I do sometimes write it in these articles, in which case another word for that kind of writing is "purple prose," as in overwritten, pseudo-prophetic prose that gets carried away with itself.

      I just enjoy good writing regardless of the format. The Wikipedia page makes a crucial point about prose poetry: "Prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects."

      So to be any kind of poetry, the writing has to preserve some poetic qualities. At best, Gorman got hold of some superficial poetic features, such as rhyming and some rhythms. Those are the very easiest, dumbed-down tricks a poet can pull off. The much harder poetic task is to write creatively, avoiding cliches and abstractions, with heightened imagery and emotional impact. That's what Gorman didn't do.

      And I hear she'll be reciting another poem for the Super Bowl. Can you imagine how much more insipid that poem will be, for that football audience which is surely even less interested in real, challenging poetry? I shudder at the thought, but if things go as I foresee, I'll be writing another article on that next performance of hers.

  3. When I head it at the inauguration I simply considered it mediocre poetry; it did not occur to me to write it down as is if were prose & see if it could pass as such. I decided to try it on several other poems to see if this technique could consistently detect bad prose posing as poetry. My first example is from Aleister Crowley, perhaps the most unappreciated poet of the 20th century:

    With noble passion sun souled Lucifer swept through the dawn colossal; swift aslant Eden's imbecile perimeter. He blessed nonentity with every curse & spiced with sorrow the dull soul of sense. Brought life to the sterile universe. With love & knowledge drove out innocence...

    The wording is a bit abstract for a poem, but even written as prose its poetic qualities are impossible to miss.

    Next I chose some lines from Allen Ginsburg, certainly the most overrated poet of the 20th century:

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night...

    If I had never read Howl & heard this recited I might easily mistake it for the incoherent ramblings of some aging hippie whose brain had been permanently deranged by drug abuse (an impression which would not be too far from the truth).

    Mr. Cain, I think you've just discovered a heuristic for detecting bad poetry. No more will hacks be allowed to hide behind appeals to subjectivity or personal taste!

    I'm not sure if infantilization can explain why good poetry rarely gets accolades these days. I think that one of the defining features of a good poem is that it can be appreciated by anyone regardless of their literary sophistication. Milton's poems presuppose a classical education in the reader which, in my opinion, is what ruins them. The great poets -- the ones who get remembered through the passage of not just decades or even centuries, but millennia -- are those who choose timeless subjects & express themselves with imagery that transcends the specific culture they were a part of. Sappho was Greek, but, except for a few references to Aphrodite, you don't have to know anything about Greek history or mythology to be effected by her words. Hitomaru was a Japanese aristocrat of the Heian period -- about as far removed from my own culture & upbringing as any human being can be -- and yet I instantly fell in love with him after reading a poem of his for the first time.

    Well, if Miss Gormen fails as a poet, she might still make it as a model.

    1. Yeah, putting a poem into prose or paragraph form removes the trappings and forces the reader to focus on the words themselves. Gorman's poem does have some rhythm and some inexact rhymes that would still emerge, but those can only be superficial poetic features: they stand for little if the writing isn't more essentially poetic, that is, creative in its word choices. That's where Gorman's poem fails, in its poetic essence.

      Still, we should be careful to distinguish between assessing a poem's quality and determining whether an author is even trying to be poetic in the first place. Ginsberg's language there does seem at least like an attempt to be especially creative, but that's not to say his poem is great in poetic terms. Those are two different judgments. Another problem with poetry is that the language can become cliched over time so that the images lose their force and freshness. That's the fault of time, not necessarily the poet.

      I'm eager to hear Gorman's Super Bowl poem, since I'm planning to use that occasion to tear more deeply into this fad for fake poetry.

  4. Greta Rushton de WinfreyJanuary 30, 2021 at 4:03 AM

    I think your analysis on her work is overcritical specially because she wrote this poem for a non necessarily significant event. It's not a great poem but c'mon. And a poem tor superball?? Don't expect something better.

    1. Well, I think you're shooting the messenger. I'm not being overly critical. Society as a whole isn't being nearly critical enough, for pretending a fake poem like Gorman's should set the standard for what counts as poetry. The cause of this mess isn't one person's over-analysis, but a witch's brew of political correctness, affirmative action, and cultural infantilization.

      I expect I'm going to be writing a more comprehensive article on this in response to her Super Bowl poem. As I said in response to Kevin above, that second poem will of course be even more dumbed-down than the inaugural one, given the audience. The thought of such a "poem" should make us shudder in disgust.

    2. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 30, 2021 at 10:57 AM

      I would don't call ver poem as "pseudo". I still prefer this with all its simple cliché than a typical "modern" poem full of self, vulgarity and lack of any rythm, any effort.

    3. If you're talking about the Hallmark kind of feel-good Instagram poems, I agree. I even wrote a poem against much Instagram poetry, which I posted on Instagram. See below.

      I don't like anything that's done carelessly, including poems. But it's a lot easier to write with rhythm and rhymes than to write words that are genuinely creative, original, and profound. Doggerel can rhyme. Anyone can use a rhyming dictionary and make a bunch of random or empty associations between words that rhyme.

      I'd say the more essential poetic task is to think of new ways of seeing the world and of everything in it. Gorman's poem was insipid and platitudinous, as it likely had to be to suit its political (largely sociopathic) and infantilized audiences.

      Here Lies Poetry on Instagram

      A grave on Instagram
      For poetry debased;
      Sentimental spam,
      A cyberland of waste;
      Feelings of the little lamb
      Typed on tears in haste;
      Prey to the techno scam,
      Youths naïve and chaste,
      Swaddled in schmaltz to dam
      The tech that’s far outpaced
      Art, the cure for this sham;
      A wake for verse misplaced--
      Weak brew, no aftertaste

    4. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 30, 2021 at 2:55 PM

      And social media boost popularity&self-marketing over genuine artistical talent. It's all about what majority want and not what is the best based on the most objective criteria. I'm not against popularization of arts per si but that high arts being totally replaced from its culture's nucleus by popular art$.

    5. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 30, 2021 at 3:06 PM

      ... And start from the fact lots of commercial artists are not real artists if they have as main goals in their professional lives, fame and money. Even many historical artistic geniuses worked ALSO for money and fame, they always had the artistic excellence as one of their main goals/happiness pursue. Some of them, the luckiest ones, were capable to combine the useful with the pleasant. The typical commercial "artists" not only tend to be mediocre but also slave of majority tastes. Interestingly many of pseudo post modern arts today is based exactly on complete rebellion against submission to majority's opinions. That's another umbalanced, typical from a dying or threatened civilization. I don't believe the finest artists submmit themselves to the judgment of the "masses" or by the moneymentariat but that they tend to have the similar natural inclination to apreciate beauty objectively as majority of people tend to do in basic levels even they are also on avg very influenced by conformity to the current cultural trends.

    6. I agree that conformity to mass opinion is often a sign of fake art. Art should be challenging or subversive; otherwise, it's propaganda.

      But the question of art's purpose is a deep one. It's possible that what we think of as art is a Western, modern idea that's run its course. This is why Danto thought art in an ideological sense is dead. The history of modern art ended with postmodernity. I don't think that's exactly right, but the question remains whether art has a goal that can be achieved. If it doesn't, art might be for nothing.

  5. Greta Flushton de WinfreyJanuary 31, 2021 at 9:18 AM

    It's all about what majority want...

    and market too