30 May 2012

Amazon Pseudo-Scholars?

For all of Amazon’s faults, and there are many, the review portions often lead to entertaining insights. Some people feel very comfortable making broad declarations and judgments in that forum, which strikes me as strange because elsewhere (readings, workshops, conferences, etc.) that dynamic seems to get tempered. So, while I disagree with much of what’s written, the Amazon reviews at least provide something a little different.

Here’s one regarding the Merwin translation of Osip Mandelstam, written by Donald A. Newlove:

I like Merwin's Mandelstam more than that of five other translators with whom I've compared Mandelstam translations. It often takes three readings of a Mandelstam poem to get why it was written---not what it is about, please---but WHY it was written. That is what you look for. After that the sense of the poem will appear.”

Mr. Newlove claims to have found the right formula for reading poems. You have to admire the cringe-worthy brashness of “that is what you look for,” as if there were only one definite way to read poetry. But that’s not my main source of entertainment. What I really love is the last sentence in this quote, which treats poetry like a magic trick; the meaning of the poem is like the woman who disappeared behind the curtain only to return—or maybe it’s the clichéd rabbit that gets pulled out of the hat. But, remember, you MUST read the poem three times for the trick to work! 


  1. Whatevs, Shep.

  2. This guy's got balls!

  3. 3 Is A Magic Number is a great song! Engaging 1st post, Brettt!

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