Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Baffling Mr. Abramson

I don't know which is more puzzling: Seth Abramson's statement a couple of days ago that he knows "absolutely nothing about [Rachel] Loden," or his equally self-assured (and, um, "satirical") assertion in 2005 that "Other poets, like Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Rachel Loden, had simply appeared in far more issues of Best American Poetry than public opinion of their work would seem to warrant."

If Abramson knows "absolutely nothing" about Rachel Loden today, surely he knew less than diddly-squat about her two years ago. Why then did she (and the supposed market rating of her work) merit satirizing? And if he felt he needed to go on the satirical record then, how can he claim to know zilch/nada/bupkis about her now?

It's all terribly confounding, and the strumpet searches in vain for clarity.


shanna said...

dear, don't try too hard now. some befuddlements are best left, etc. (& very glad to see you have a blog!)

Rachel Loden said...

Thanks, Shanna! Still a bit lost in the blogosphere here. But taking heart from Miss Moore when she says "it is a privilege to see so / much confusion."

Seth Abramson said...

[Someone who thinks much of you asked that I come over here and clarify my remarks to/for you]...

Hi, I made my 2005 comment based upon the frequency with which I'd come across your name during my (at that point) seven years writing and reading poetry. It wasn't a comment on the quality of the body of your work, but on the level of its dissemination. My more recent comment--putting aside for a moment that it was in response to you calling me "barmy" (which means "mentally irregular")--merely emphasized that just as I don't know much about your personal views on aesthetics, I don't think you know mine, let alone, as I said, my "values" (as Gabriel's comment about 'official culture' surely indicated he, at least, had views on that subject). I don't bear you any ill will whatsoever, and don't claim to have a strong opinion one way or another on either you or your poetry. Be well,
Take care,
P.S. As Shanna intimates, I'm no one anyone should give a fig about, anyhow. She's correct.

Rachel Loden said...

It's interesting how the tribal tom-tom works, isn't it? Our strange new toy.

Well, new to me anyway. But Seth (hello Seth), "mentally irregular" is my middle name, you know, kind of in the way of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia. I've been known to close my emails "barmily yours," or at least "your barmy friend." Barmy is a word I'm quite fond of (along with "addlepated"), so you mustn't take offense at those.

Like you, apparently, I'm someone whose good news has always come after slipping a letter into a mailbox or (lately) clicking "send." To this day, I have not met a single person who's "disseminated" my work, with the exception of a couple of juvie publications circa 1973 (and those folks aren't around anymore).

So I did find it very odd to be swept up in your thoroughgoing indictment of literary funny business. I suspect a lot of others might feel the same way--since, as you say, you don't know us, our aesthetics or (more to the point) our ethics and values.

And I don't know yours, of course. We're all in this global cock-up together and have to try to keep thinking despite our inevitable (and multiple) blind-spots and inadequacies, and that's what we tried very hard to do in The Dangerfield Conundrum.

Could we have done a better job? Absolutely. I could write a book about the things I'd do differently, in retrospect.

This was a brave (and even brazen) social experiment--a ten-sided conversation for publication, and really we just had to go on our nerve. But I do think there's a lot of meat on those bones, a lot to engage and take further.

What I wanted more than anything was to start a conversation about the vexed relationship between comedy and "seriousness," and if exchanges like this one move things in that direction, however clumsily, perhaps the effort wasn't entirely wasted?

Thanks for your note and for your patience--it's been a crazy day here.

Seth Abramson said...


Thank you for the kind message--I've been on the internet(s) for several years now and still haven't learned how to play responsibly as often as I ought to. I became a PD because I do enjoy mischief-making, and unfortunately this technology provides far too many tempting opportunities to make entirely the wrong sort of mischief--the mean-spirited kind. The truth is that I am absolutely barmy, but in a way most folks I've met find engaging and pleasant.

If you've made your way in all this morass the same way I have--and, clearly, you have--my hat's off to you. It's a lot less fun than it looks, as I'm sure you well know.

I didn't mean to implicate you in the whole Lehmania thing; as I said in one of my much-lambasted BAP posts (I think there were five or six total), I always reserve my real criticism for what we called in law school "the bearer of least burden"--the person who had the authority, and thus the responsibility, to avoid the whole mess simply by acting decently and ethically. For me, that's Lehman, but I don't ask others to agree with me (anymore), and don't mean to suggest you have any special access to Lehman whatsoever. Importantly, I've always said that even those who do know Lehman are (to quote) "under absolutely no obligation to look a gift horse in the mouth." Not when we've all such a slim chance, really, of ever getting work that's important to us out there to a (we hope receptive and sympathetic [Franz Wright has a great quote on this, but I'd mangle it I'm sure]) audience.

Personally, I think at this point David wouldn't swerve to avoid me in traffic. And perhaps he'd be justified in that sentiment.

Best wishes,