14 June 2006

Donald Hall, poet laureate

Summarizing somewhat how I feel or think I feel I reproduce here a poem called Villanelle, a modified villanelle, by Donald Hall. I don't know from what book it's taken, or if it's attributed to him apocryphally--but I like it and I'll stick with it until otherwise shown.

Katie could put her feet behind her head
Or do a grand pliƩ, position two,
Her suppleness magnificent in bed.

I strained my lower back, and Katie bled,
Only a little, doing what we could do
When Katie tucked her feet behind her head.

Her torso was a C-cup'd figurehead,
Wearing below its navel a tattoo
That writhed in suppleness upon the bed.

As love led on to love, love's goddess said,
"No lovers ever fucked as fucked these two!
Katie could put her feet behind her head!"

When Katie came she never stopped. Instead,
She came, cried "God!," and came, this dancer who
Brought ballerina suppleness to bed.

She curled her legs around my neck, which led
To depths unplumbed by lovers hitherto.
Katie could tuck her feet behind her head
And by her suppleness unmake the bed.

And with regard to reproducing literary works, please see this article from the New Yorker. It's a profile of Stephen James Joyce, James Joyce qua genius writer's grandson.

Michael Groden, a scholar at the University of Western Ontario, spent seven years creating a multimedia version of “Ulysses,” only to have Stephen block the project, in 2003, with a demand for a permissions fee of one and a half million dollars. (Before Stephen controlled the Joyce estate, such fees were nominal.) Groden’s sin was to have praised Danis Rose’s edition of “Ulysses” as “confident and controversial,” in a reader’s report for Rose’s publisher; he had also helped the National Library of Ireland to evaluate some Joyce drafts prior to acquiring them. “You should consider a new career as a garbage collector in New York City, because you’ll never quote a Joyce text again,” Stephen told Groden.

To take a reductive stance, I think Stephen has taken on pugilistic vigilance as a penance for not being a genius; driven partially from jealousy and partially from spite he spews bile in all directions. Joyce might be a big industry as far as academia goes, but that's hardly any reason to impede good research. In any field there will be shoddy work and good work and the shoddy work will fall away, exfoliated by time and neglect.