Freakshow Michael Robbins

Michael Robbins is the poet laureate of the Chicago Ogilvie Transportation Center McDonalds.  My favorite part is the dude who walks past at second 13.  Check it:

Also, Poetry Magazine just printed a letter to the editor i wrote in regard to some Michael Robbins writings and controversy.  Silly.  They edited the first and last lines out.  Which made me sound much more intelligent and diplomatic, I admit.  But, in a another way, and I think they know this, it also kind of ruined the letter.  Ah, life!  Ah, love!

Here’s a link to it as printed in Poetry.

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

“Anyone who’s ever met Michael Robbins knows he’s a complete asshole. So I don’t share the shock and awe your recent Letters to the Editor express at his mortalizing Robert Hass. What shocks me is the defensive reactions that followed. The letters which appeared in the last issue of Poetry were exclusively outraged by this criticism of Hass. Is that not shocking to anyone other than me? I’ll even say most of their arguments were sound. Even the ones that devolve to “We like Hass,” “Hass is cool,” etc. I don’t disagree. But neither, really, did Robbins, from my reading of his review. So what prompted the outrage?

Jonathan Blake discredits the review as a pissing contest. I’d say Blake’s right on the money. But I would also like to suggest that this is exactly why it should be celebrated. More piss, I say, less art. So much of the literary criticism I encounter just suggests the tradition is quietly going extinct. With this review, on the other hand, I feel Robbins is treating Hass to more honor than any of the letters trying to champion him. Robbins is willing to acknowledge more readings of Hass than the one which has dominated poetic discourse for so long now. While he admits many passages merit praise, he also allows that perhaps even those same passages can make for overwhelming nausea. It doesn’t seem to me any of the Letters to the Editor are willing to allow for this. And, in that way, I feel they undercut Hass’s work. Which is rich and complex. Not simple.

Igor Webb’s observation–that the hypercritical review Robbins has published is parallel to the long-ago lauding of Hass by Stanley Kunitz—most gets to the heart of the matter, in my opinion. The same exact lines…two very different reactions. Imagine that. Poetry that offers itself to more than one interpretation. When Webb says “to choose between Kunitz’s reading and Robbins’s is….a no-brainer,” I agree wholeheartedly.

I love Michael Robbins. I love that review.”


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