Genius(es) Wanted

Guest Post
By Santiago Ramos

Where do literary geniuses come from? Or should the question be: Where does literary genius come from? Does genius live only in certain persons or can even a mediocre writer get a humble share? These questions are agitating certain sectors of American letters.

“No more appeals to the inexplicable nature of genius,” observe the editors in a recent issue of n + 1. “Poets now are music makers, not mythmakers,” laments Mark Edmundson, in a recent essay for Harper’s.

The n + 1 editorial is titled “Too Much Sociology,” and wrestles with the ambiguous legacy of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who, in thick books with commanding titles like Distinction and The Rules of Art, developed a “sociology of taste” that attempted to map out the ways in which class and social standing determine artistic taste and creation.

His project was meant to be subversive, not merely descriptive; Bourdieu was a Marxist. And yet, decades hence, it seems as if those very same capitalist bourgeois forces that Bourdieu wished to subvert have adapted to his critique and even harnessed its power. [Read more...]

More Poetry of Married Love

In a previous post, I used Richard Wilbur’s poem “for C” to talk about my long marriage with George. Today I want to fill in some of the blanks that got us to this point.

My husband is recovering from open heart surgery. My doctor just informed me that my leukemia has reached a point where I have almost no healthy white cells left to fight infection—so even catching a cold could be the beginning of the end.

Life’s fragility: That’s what George and I are experiencing more than ever now. Of course, life is fragile from the day you’re born. But major illness can bring this reality to the forefront of consciousness. [Read more...]

The Moveable Feast of Memory

There are moments when you take stock of everyone and everything around you because you want to remember them for the rest of your life.

However impossible that actually is, you do it anyway. I think of it as civil disobedience against entropy, against whatever physical and chemical principles dictate the half-life of sense and memory.

I had a moment several nights ago, March 27, the debut of my friend Tearrance Chisolm’s play “In Sweet Remembrance.” It also happened to be a full moon. [Read more...]

The Poems Left In Me

With gratitude to the poets whose poems gave me this.

The poems left in me a room in which every suffering has a different smell, five summers and five long winters, boatloads of thuya, and silence on a peak in Darien.

The poems left in me grass all blowing in the same direction, twenty seven bathers and one woman, one yearning woman, watching from behind curtains, and angel-headed hipsters on negro streets at dawn searching for an angry fix.

The poems slipped into me, though not like an intruder. The poems left, when I turned the page, when I shelved the wafer-thin book, when I darkened the screen, leaving behind a still, unravished bride. The poems left with a bow not knowing to what. [Read more...]

The Hobbit, the Holy Spirit, and Calculus

It was my eleven-year-old’s turn to pick a movie, and he chose The Hobbit, just as his thirteen-year-old brother had done a few weeks before. The full title of the movie is: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and believe me, I never expected I’d be journeying to the theater to watch it a second time.

I’m very impatient with people who take a long time to tell a story, because I believe my time belongs to me. My aesthetic sense, further, favors an economy of verbiage, excepting, of course, my own pretty, pretty words.

More than once I’ve groaned inwardly, while listening to someone recount some event that matters far more to him than to me, thinking it would have taken less time to live through it myself than to suffer through his interminable telling.

This is petty and selfish of me, and so perhaps, in my Hobbit odyssey, God is teaching me patience for epic recountings. [Read more...]