The Curse of the Anthologist

It’s difficult to do anything in the world these days without a) someone complaining, b) someone else rushing to the defense of the maligned, and c) twenty or thirty unrelated parties commenting on why all the dramz is relevant/irrelevant/fascinating/ridiculous.

File this under c).

I’ve been looking through the Vendler/Dove disagreement with some surprise. But this won’t be a blog post that questions Dove’s editorial decisions or one that approves of/disqualifies Vendler’s response. My personal take on the anthology and the review of it don’t really matter; after all, who am I? I thought you’d agree.

But what I am invested in is the value system that created this conflict. It’s situations like these, I think, that make the work of the anthologist a thorny venture. I think back to the days when Legitimate Dangers was first released–2006–and I recall many of the same arguments made. This isn’t to say the arguments, such as issues relating to representation of diversity of race, gender, and other marginalized identities, are not essential ones; I’m just saying, “People, we’re still having the same conversations.” And that’s a problem.

The anthologist carries the unnatural burden (it has been so proven) of satisfying everyone. This is a task Sisyphusian in scope. In fact, the only person the anthologist is sure to satisfy is him or herself–but even now, with Dove’s situation, we see that, too, is not necessarily the case.

Vendler’s perspective on the issue connects to a larger community of writer and critique who believe less is more. Fewer poets in the canon means closer scrutiny merited by only the absolute best poets of our time. This is an excellent perspective to adopt. If only we could establish, once and for all, the objective criteria of what is “the best.”

Dove’s perspective (if I may intuit it from her response) is that there are more poets whose work bears inclusion. I don’t believe Dove sought to speak on behalf of The Canon. But in adopting the work of the anthologist, she is perceived (by some or all) to have done so.

Partly, I think this is because her anthology’s title stakes a claim as an important evaluation of the work of the last century. These are big shoes to fill in a world where there are long standing assumptions about who those poets are.

My lingering question is: “Why do we bother to publish new anthologies if they will only include the usual suspects, whose work has been anthologized previously in other books?”

If that was the only goal of the anthology, we could all congratulate Norton on a job well done and leave it at that.

But many of us writing now, I believe, see value in adding to–not replacing, not supplanting, not necessarily criticizing–the established anthology gang. Vendler, in her review, allowed that some readers, especially young ones (!), might feel electrified by some of the work Dove included that isn’t commonly found in other anthologies. But Vendler didn’t believe this was a criterion that permitted the exclusion (purposeful or not) of the poets she (and others like her) expected to see.

It’s that expectation that troubles me, and that has troubled me in all of the responses I’ve read to this particular anthology. And to every anthology ever produced. Especially when the expectation is voiced as “I expected to see X poet instead of someone like Y poet.” If you felt this way, I’d hazard it’s because you’ve seen X poet in other anthologies with a scope like Dove’s.

But I’d also hazard you hadn’t seen Dove’s anthology before.

I believe it is the job of the anthologist to show us something new. Those poets who are regularly anthologized? Their work is taking care of itself. It will endure. The people who want it (expect it) can find it in any number of places. But the work on the brink of extinction–those poets not commonly anthologized, those poets Dove, as anthologist, feels need a second look–those are the pieces I’m most interested in.

I may not like them. I may not believe they are really worthy of inclusion in an anthology that, by its title, suggests it is a comprehensive look at a century of writing.

But I will value the opportunity to have made that decision for myself, rather than to have experienced, yet again, the same book with a slightly different title, a different editor, and some new cover art.

And if I disagree with Dove’s choices, or another editor’s choices, I won’t disparage her or suggest she failed in her endeavor. I am, after all, but one person (see above: who am I?).

I will close the book, place it on a shelf, and wait for the next editor’s unique perspective on poetry, to see what can be found there.

Four Major Studios Cancel Writers’ Contracts

LOS ANGELES – Four major studios have canceled dozens of writers’ contracts in a possible concession that the current television season cannot be saved, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The move means the 2-month old writers strike may also endanger next season’s new shows, the Times said.

January is usually the beginning of pilot season, when networks order new scripted shows. But the strike leaves networks without a pool of comedy and drama scripts from which to choose.

20th Century Fox Television, CBS Paramount Network Television, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. Television told the Times they have terminated development and production agreements.

Studios typically pay $500,000 to $2 million a year per writer for them and their staffs to develop new show concepts.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Barbara Hall, a writer and producer whose credits include former CBS series “Joan of Arcadia” and “Judging Amy,” told the Times, which said ABC executives gave her the news Friday. “I am not entirely sure what their strategy is, all I know was that I was a casualty of it.”

The newspaper said more than 65 deals with writers have been eliminated since Friday.

It boggles the mind what little impact they think good writing has on the quality of television.

Oh, well.

Get ready for a year of reality shows like “Cheating Husband Island,” “I’ll Swap My Wife for Your RV,” “SuperNanny Vixens,” “Extreme Homo Makeovers for the Straight Girl’s Guys,” “Are You Smarter than a Petri Dish of Active Yogurt Cultures?” “Make My Fat Slob of a Husband Into Tyson Beckford, Tyra!” and, last but not least, “Hallmark Presents: Oprah’s Littlest Sweatshop.”

Further Tales of the Shoe

It turns out I may not have ordered the Diesels online after all. After all that.

I checked my email, no receipt; my bank account didn’t show any shoe-related activity, either. I don’t know what happened, but apparently my purchase didn’t go through. I was pissed because I asked for 2nd day air and they hadn’t arrived by yesterday.

Then, when I googled the shoe, I couldn’t find anymore in red! I was shut out. My shoe had sailed. It was over.

On a whim, I got in the car and drove down to my local sporting goods store, which I think was a Sports Authority. I walked in and found a nice pair of on-sale New Balance shoes for the gym (because Sketchers also ruined the gym for me, too), and then I tried on Pumas, Nikes, and Adidas, until I settled on these:

Except they have black stripes.

They’re pretty comfortable! I like them. And they have a little Goodyear logo on them…maybe because I’m going to exceed the walking speed limit?

I still want another pair of shoes, but maybe I’ll wait until I get to New York this month to buy another.

Shoes: The Final Saga

Friends, I spent most of my holiday vacation shoe shopping.

Faithful kinemapoetics readers understand: this never ends well.

I was looking for one of two pairs of shoes:

a white sneaker with red details
a white sneaker with light blue details

In my head, I was probably envisioning Nikes or Adidas as the mostly likely candidates, but when it comes to shoes, I like to think of myself as open to experimentation, like a college student.

Unfortunately, I was about as deluded as Kristy Swanson in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when she said, “All I want to do is go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die!” Although these days you probably could marry Christian Slater, and it might actually kill you.

So I visited the cheap mall, where the outlet stores lived, and I went into each of the 897654357 shoes stores. I’ve done this before, you might recall. Well, I found 1 store that had white shoes with red on them, Nikes even, and their largest size? Size 9.

I got in my car and left Liliput in search of a shoe store that might actually carry a grown-ass man’s shoe size. Over the next few days, I visited no less than three malls, including their surrounding ephemeral sprawl, to find something, anything.

The closest I came was this:

Biggest size: 9.

Why the rush, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. For the past year or so, I’ve been wearing a pair of Sketchers sneakers which, while cute and stuff, have exacerbated my plantar fasciitis to the point where the pain is just awful, wretched. I’ll never own another pair of Sketchers as long as I live, mark me there—buy-one-get-one-half-off be damned!

But in the end, I decided it was more important for me to get the right shoe that to get the shoe I could take home with me that day, so I went home and ordered the Diesel shoe from an online retailer and expedited the shipping.

They aren’t here yet.