12 April 2005


A comment made on WNYC by John Ashbery [Wikipedia], the Poet Laureate of New York, regarding poetry "slams" [Wikipedia]: They suffer from a lack of modulation. I've never been to a slam, but I can understand the argument that the expressive potential of a medium might narrow with a narrower set of parameters. The interviewer then suggested that even a flawed poetry experience should be praised for the interest it creates in the more accepted forms.

This assertion would often come up with fans of classical music in the days of Hooked on Classics--you know, those albums that had snippets of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky floating above a disco beat. I'm serious. The argument I always used against an HoC introduction to classical music was, simply, that it's not an introduction to classical music. It's an introduction to disco with samples of classical melody. Why should anyone who likes that think they might like the many-times-removed source material?

But say some people were introduced to classical music through HoC: does that mean the works should be praised for their use as an introduction to classical music (assuming even that an introduction to classical music should be praised)? If there were a sudden rash of archeology majors driven by Indiana Jones movies, should those movies be praised for their recruitment capabilities or dismissed for their inaccurate use as a recruitment tool? How many students will suffer the months and years of sifting through millimeter layers of dirt when they're expecting sexy adventure? If you enjoyed Hooked on Classics and eventually became a classical music fan, you would have gotten there anyway.

So why complain that a flawed imitation of one experience is being defended for the interest it creates in that experience? Well, why suggest such comparisons if the relationship doesn't exist? Why not enjoy poetry slams as poetry slams and not have to evoke a distinctly different art form?

We're back to the low-art/high-art argument.

[ posted by sstrader on 12 April 2005 at 11:10:47 PM in Language & Literature ]