Thursday, April 3, 2008

upbeat and tough at Cosmo

In August '60 Cosmopolitan ran an essay by Richard Gehman called "The Language of Love." Poetry is back in America...because American readers are realizing that it's about robust human passion.

"It is only in recent years that Americans in mass have become aware of the vitality of this form of literature and of the rewards it has to offer them." Previously poetry was being "poorly taught, taught by rote, or taught with emphasis on scholarship and research rather than on emotion and appreciation."

Fortunately the "prototype" of the "dreamy-eyed aesthete with golden curls" is dead. It "had only a short life in an excessively effete era."

"Never forget that Shelley was six feet tall"! And that Ted Roethke "once worked in a pickle factory."

Americans "prefer robust and virile heroes" and thus poets should be " eminence."

And what about Eliot? A whimp? A Girly Man? A solitary, weak-stomached fellow who "pine[s] for inspiration"? Naw. Gehman here celebrates an anecdote he'd recently heard about T. S. Eliot: the poet, at dinner at his London club, gamely eats "game pie...full of beaks and shot, or a cut off the joint and two veg," and then after dinner roughly grabs a hunk of cheese the size "of a baby's head," stabbing with a knife the whole piece and then eats "the whole goddmaned thing." Thus proving...what? That Eliot is one of those "robust and virile" men who should affirm Americans' emergent view of American poets as regular good-guy American heroes whose stature and rough experience enable them to emote in regular good-guy ways.

And let's not forget Irving Layton (never mind that he's Canadian). After all, Layton is a "towering man" who "once shoveled coal" and fought "bare-knuckled every day" as a kid and--this really gives him credentials--refused to mourn his lousy father.

Bizarrely (and without transition) Allen Ginsberg joins this list of normative strapping real-guy poets: after all, he's so passionately into reading his poetry that sometimes he strips off his shirt, showing bare chest (hairy chest, doubltess is the implication).

"Hard" is the word here. Poets are hard folks. Poems are hardy expressions of human emotion. Powerful and hard.'s the key point..."true poetry is hard work."

And hard American work in support of the poet fits here as well. After all, isn't it true that "publicity sells poetry"?

America, the poets (and Madison Avenue ad men) are putting their virile shoulders to the wheel!