Politics and Awful Art


A bit of a follow up to an earlier post where I linked to Mencius‘ thoughts on “An Almost Pure Empty Poetry,” and the circlejerk that is the Poetry Establishment; I came across this article at Overcoming Bias with a similar theme on the badness of poetry, and how ideologues are often blinded to the obvious faults in their own verse for the sake of “sticking it to the man,” or whatever ironic epithet you may choose to poke fun at the reflexive 1960’s anti-establishment mentality.

The trouble, as the author of the article points out, is endorsing bad poetry for what is perceived as good policy. Which makes it particularly hard to endorse this article, given that it’s largely told as a working through of craft in which the author gradually refines a small section of verse from,

I was not your destination
Only a step on your path

To the far inferior,

I was never your city,
Just a stretch of your road.

Although the process itself the author uses to reach the latter seems very sound, it’s obvious to me from the comparison of the two products that both are bad. But at least one has a directness and verve and clarity of purpose that’s conducive to the message that’s trying to be versified.

I suppose in the spirit of not justifying bad verse with policy, we shouldn’t discount the policy because of the bad verse? Oh well. At least the comments provided a link to these clever little anecdotes.

2 Responses

  1. I’m clueless when it comes to poetry and typically avoid it at all costs, but when it comes to (fictional) movies or books, having strong politics is usually a bad thing. I like Neal Stephenson’s attitude towards politics in art:

    “These I avoid for the simple reason that artists often make fools of themselves, and begin to produce bad art, when they decide to get political. A novelist needs to be able to see the world through the eyes of just about anyone, including people who have this or that set of views on religion, politics, etc. By espousing one strong political view a novelist loses the power to do this. Anyone who has convinced himself, based on reading my work, that I hold this or that political view, is probably wrong. What is much more likely is that, for a while, I managed to get inside the head of a fictional character who held that view.”

    One of the many reasons I like Stephenson…

  2. I haven’t read anything by Stephenson — But I’ve seen quotes from his works pop up from time to time and always liked his insight. One of these days I’ll get Snow Crash from the library…

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