The fat lady’s still singing.
Reading the reactions to Anis Shivani’s post has been as much fun as the post itself.
The number of comments (at Huffington Post) is already racing toward 2,000. That, in my view, makes Shivani’s criticism a ringing success (despite the tidal wave of indignation and posturing). Any piece of writing that can draw that much attention has done something right – and by right I mean more than opinions. In reviewing these posts, I’ve noticed a trend. Those who are most offended by Shivani seem to be those most vested in literature, either as writers, academics or critics. Those who approve of Shivani’s comments seem to be the reading public. Just my impression.
Yikes! Like a virgin who’s touched the centerfold. Contradicting their namesake, this website backed away from their link to Shivani’s article with unrivaled horror and rectitude!
Exemplary Lines: “Yikes. I was the one who approved the original post. Lapse in judgment there! Sorry everybody.”
The news blog of Publisher’s Weekly uses Shivani’s commentary as a teachable moment. “We need some happy thoughts,” they write; then ask: “Who are the most underrated writers?” The results turn up in their post: PWxyz’s most Underrated Writers. But Publisher’s Weekly turns out to be a dark, bleak night for poets. Such is the shiny-faced law of unintended consequences. Is there a single poet among the 15 most underrated writers? Not one. Lesson learned. A rising tide does not lift poets.
Examplary Lines: “We need some happy thoughts. Rather than put people down, let’s life a few people up and make a list of underrated writers for a bright new week. “(Unless you’re a poet.)
Bring it on! Alison Flood of the Guardian takes a spectator’s relish in the all-car crash & burn that is turning out to be the literary world’s Indy 500.
Exemplary Lines: “I get the feeling that Shivani has been brewing this piece for some time.”
The post that sees both sides of the argument, fair and balanced, right up… almost… just about… to the end.
Exemplary Lines: “To be fair to Shivani, many of the writers he discussed are utter hacks.”
Disappointed. Michael Nye, the managing editor of the Missouri Review is, in a word, disappointed — which is not to say he disagrees. First paragraph? He lists the skewered authors, but what about the poets? Look for words like rabid, inflammatory, sour grapes, bully-pulpit.
Exemplary Lines: “Well, okay.”
Feminism anyone? 9 of the writers on Shivani’s hit list are women – and that might be 9 too many. Still no love for poets.
Exemplary Lines : “Yes, Glück has committed the first deadly sin of the female writer: thinking she’s important.” (Note: the author doesn’t write: Glück has committed the first deadly sin of the poet: thinking she’s important.“
A love/hate relationship? David Hill has tried to bite his tongue, but enough is enough. (Perhaps the first respondent to have actually read Shivani elsewhere.) He’s not impressed but, “to be honest”, Shivani “makes some good points”. Shivani “complains alot”, but “oddly, I think if I met him, I would like him.” Why won’t Shivani back up his criticism?
Exemplary Lines: “…I move at a different pace than many of the blogging elite that manage to fire off their own inflammatory musings every time some drivel like this ruffles enough people’s feathers.” (Moi?)
Ritual purification. Bill Roorbach, like David Hill, just can’t resist the siren call of Shivani’s bonfire of the vanities. Guilt. Pleasure. It’s all there. And a sense of humor. In the comment section, Roorbach adds as an afterthought: “The poets on Mr. Shivani’s list are all interesting, too, but that’s a different discussion.” A different discussion? The has to hurt. No time for poetry on his Rolodex.
Exemplary Lines: “I love them! I love their books! Also, they’re friends and acquaintances of mine, and I don’t like to see them hurt.”
Shivani is the reincarnation of B.R. Myers. Haven’t read Myers’ article? Then you’re in for another treat – not over-easy but well-done.
Exemplary Lines: “Shivani also broadens the field of his attack, including seven poets and one critic (The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani).” (Finally, poets and novelists in the same paragraph, getting the recognition they… well… deserve?)
This blogger is so offended he refuses to so much as link to Shivani’s article. So, because I’m poet and have a license to practice poetic justice, I am linking to him.
Exemplary Lines: “I wish he could have just said what he thought without first having to invalidate what I think, based upon my status as a college professor in an MFA program.” (Yeah… this is personal.)
Shivani has a point, says Carissa. We can all improve, right?
Exemplary Lines: “Unless you’re incredibly well-versed in contemporary American literature, at least one of those names will make you ask, ‘Who?’”
Her gripe? What a sexist prude!
Exemplary Lines: “And since when were these women ever even roped in with John Ashbery or Billy Collins.” (Ouch.)
Overrated overrated lists. Lincoln Michel asks: Overrated by who? Any love for poets? Michel calls Shivani’s critique of Ashbery several decades too late. Translation: He’s beating a dead horse. Ouch. What about the other poets? Don’t ask. Let’s talk about those novelists.
Exemplary Lines: “Is it a list of writers that MFA students overrate? Mainstream literary awards? Small magazines? The reading public? It is like making a list of overrated musicians and putting Lada Gaga and Drake next to John Cale and Children of Bodom.”
The post that finally demolishes Shivani with, among other things, a devastating critique of his poor grammar. Cortnee Howard proves why she’s Editor-in-Chief.
Exemplary Lines: “There is a semi-colon in the first sentence, but the first clause doesn’t have a subject, which is both wrong and generally confusing.”
Into the fire. This website only provided a link to Shivani’s article but offered up lots and lots of indignant comments. But, finally, someone defends the poets… sort of… in a way… as it were … kinda’… Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire.
Exemplary Lines: “Why are there even poets on that list at all? Nobody is out there rating poets. No poets are getting rich off of being overrated. Leave the poor poets to bitch at each other about who’s winning what contest and who was whose student and all that mess. Jesus.” (Never mind.)