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This report is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

Right-Think, Silence, Shaming, Cancellation Sam Milne
I was prompted to write this report following my reading of the editorial in the last issue of PNR (March–April 2021). The editorial cogently analyses the encroaching ideology of right-think, silence, shaming and cancellation in Western culture. My attention was particularly drawn to the phrase ‘objective correlatives have never seemed so perilously subjective’, as this threat had struck me forcibly when reading a recent review of John Berryman’s Selected Letters by Kamran Javadizadeh in the April 8 issue of the New York Review of Books. The article to my mind was merely a platform to accuse Berryman (in writing The Dream Songs, the letters themselves are hardly mentioned) of racism. Javadizadeh writes of Berryman’s supposed ‘racist mimicry’, his ‘white supremacy’, the ‘racialized structure’ of his poem, ‘the anxiety at the heart of whiteness itself’, and of ‘just how white, and therefore how exclusionary and impoverished, confessional poetry, his own included, ultimately could be’. He castigates Berryman for ‘the very idea of a lyric subject, an “I” whose interiority the poem presents’, being premised, as he argues, ‘on the whiteness of that “I”’. He writes of ‘the whiteness of the lyric tradition’, ‘the whiteness of the lyric subject’, ignoring the likes of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Derek Walcott, not to mention non-English-speaking poets such as Pierre Faubert, Oswald Durant, Aimé Césaire, René Noyau and Leopold Senghor. (Javadizadeh tells us that Berryman approved of Gottfried Benn’s lines, ‘We are using our own skin for wallpaper and we cannot win.’ In that case, surely, one could argue ...


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