Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sometimes, you just want a cheeseburger

I am an extremely adventurous eater. When I travelled in Japan, I frequently didn't know what I had eaten until I asked my host at the end of the meal. I frequently make menu selections by looking for things I've never had in that particular combination before. My mother-in-law has remarked more than once that she loves cooking for me because she can experiment and she knows I'll eat it. With that in mind, please know that there are days when what I want more than anything is a McDonald's cheeseburger. And here's the thing: When that's what I want, a perfect teriyaki salmon over field greens doesn't appeal to me at all.

On another note, Megan Fox recently had this to say about the new Transformers movie: "People are well aware that this is not a movie about acting. And once you realize that, it becomes almost fun because you can be in the moment and go 'All right, I know that when he calls Action!, I'm either going to be running, or screaming, or both."

What do these things have to do with each other? Put these notions together with the last post's ideas of a "range" of poetry: The ideas is that there is room in any artistic field for output that has selective, or opportunistic appeal, and if you know that's what you're after, there's nothing wrong with that - provided you're aware where you are in the range. Two of my favorite movies are Singin' in the Rain and Twelve Angry Men. I don't fool myself that they are equivalent artistic achievements, but when I want "Make 'em Laugh", "I want another vote" won't do.

Norman Mclean similarly observed in an NPR interview that as a teacher, he always taught Shakespeare every year to make sure that he stayed calibrated (my word); it was OK to teach a "second- or third- or fourth-rater" as long as you knew that's what you were teaching, and teaching Shakespeare kept that in perspective.

The concept of accessibility as a scale of expected audience effort seems to me to apply easily to food and movies, as well. And it doesn't mean any of them are just bad (aside from Howard the Duck). But as it applies to poetry, I think it continues to mean that it's OK to be Eve Merriam as long as you don't think you're Louis Zukofsky.

Or to be yourself, whoever that is, in verse, as long as you know who that is, and who it is that is interested in what you have to say.

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