Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The virtue of form …

… Homage, Not Larceny: On Nicholas Friedman’s “Petty Theft” - Los Angeles Review of Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Friedman’s channeling of E. A. Robinson (if the poems of this book were less skillful I might invoke Edgar Lee Masters) is an exercise in retro-transgression. In a time when egos and agendas relentlessly insert themselves into lyric poetry, he adopts techniques from earlier eras and stands back as a neutral observer. “Show don’t tell” may be the workshop cliché, but most millennial poets find ways to make their standard ideological points brutally clear, so it is refreshing to be moved but not pushed; Robinson never tells us why Richard Cory ended his idyllic life and Friedman never tells us what is going through Jim’s mind as he awaits the 6:03. This type of poetry challenges readers to fill in cavernous blank spaces in the way that classical Chinese shih poets usually asked their readers to do.

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