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This article is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

What Kind of Disorganization is This? Anthony Caleshu

To the great disappointment of traditionalists everywhere, poetry, as we approach this fevered millennium, appears to be tapping its feet to the tune of a doped up disc-jockey. Poems spun out of mixed metaphors, tangential rambles, and pathetic fallacies are turning up their noses at conventional (and this includes theoretical) critical interpretation and dancing to the beat of glowing reviews that ask readers well, to just, yeah man, read the poems. When Helen Vendler asked the reader to enter the 'dream world' of John Ashbery while reading Flowchart, I imagined the dawn of the new New Criticism, context put aside, poems exist on the paper of the mind, and if you can't see it, well, tough for you bubba-balloo. In a recent issue of Metre, Elizabeth Lowry asks, 'What is it about Medbh McGuckian that attracts giddy, high-flowing gush from even the most surefooted critics?' After an hysterical cataloguing of some of these 'surefooted critics' impressive soft-shoes around the subject of McGuckian's poems, Lowry assumes the task at hand and tries to hold the ever-evasive McGuckian accountable for, get this, individual lines. After a bravura battle, however, Lowry concedes the fight, 'utterly puzzled'.

In like fashion to these poets, who introduce images and ideas only to 'flit' off ( I use the term after McGuckian's aptly-titled poem), I want to enter a third poet into this potpourri, who's making, indeed, has made, a career out of baffling critics and entertaining readers: the American writer, James Tate. Without ...


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