It seems to me that narcissism is ineluctably at the heart of poetry, maybe of every human enterprise. One-third of people will think I’m an idiot for bothering to state this. Two-thirds will think I’m repugnant for suggesting that poetry isn’t soul magic. But, however magical your soul, doesn’t its unveiling imply a touch of egotism? In lyric poetry, especially, some degree of narcissism seems unavoidable. Even Dickinson and Hopkins sought readers at some point. Now let us observe a moment’s silence for the Unknown Poets, who have defeated narcissism and won oblivion. Then, since there’s nothing to build on there, let us quickly turn in gratitude to their egotistical fellow poets, who reached through self-regard to give the bitter world a little beauty and insight.
In June 2010, the government was expressing real interest in social
networks. The Air Force issued a public request for “persona
management software,” which might sound boring until you realize that
the government essentially wanted the ability to have one agent run
multiple social media accounts at once.
It wanted 50 software licenses, each of which could support 10
personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and
cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically
The software would allow these 50 cyberwarriors to peer at their
monitors all day and manipulate these 10 accounts easily, all “without
fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” The personas
would appear to come from all over the world, the better to infiltrate
jihadist websites and social networks, or perhaps to show up on
Facebook groups and influence public opinion in pro-US directions.
As the cyberwarriors worked away controlling their 10 personas, their
computers would helpfully provide “real-time local information” so
that they could play their roles convincingly.
While hackers get most of the attention for their rootkits and botnets
and malware, state actors use the same tools to play a different
game—the Great Game—and it could be coming soon to a computer near
When a person takes the step toward learning more of craft and its history, more of artifice—when, for example, a person crosses the threshold of an MFA program—she chooses to end a childhood in artlessness. She gives up some of the innocent infatuation, the naïveté, the adolescent grandiosity, maybe even some of the natural grace of the beginner. “They are good poets because they don’t know yet how hard it is to write a poem,” I have heard a teacher say, a bit tartly, of her beginning poetry class.
This initiation into knowledge will infect the learner with the virus of self-consciousness. As a consequence of learning of the existence of the poems of W.H. Auden, or Marianne Moore, or Louise Glück, your writing may suddenly seem horribly simplistic, crude as crayon drawings on Masonite. Now the poem, even as you are making it, seems stiff, clumsy, and obvious. Now your work may become, in compensation, coy and encoded.
Yet that very knowledge, which can inhibit and choke, can also inspire and challenge. Self-consciousness is the necessary border crossing of craft, skill, and even of poetic ambition.”
“In many cases these publishers are basically getting the revenue off of composers who are dead for a very long time,” Mr. Guo said. “The Internet has become the dominant form of communication. Copyright law needs to change with it. We want people to have access to this material to foster creativity. Personally I don’t feel pity for these publishers.”
This comment by Mr. Guo has personal resonance:
“Composing is very good until you have to pay your bills,” he said.
As does this one, however much at odds it is with the last one:
“As a musician I have a duty to promote music. That’s the basic philosophy behind it.”
We live in interesting times. When The Guardian has an article with a headline that asks “Will Radiohead’s The King of Limbs save the music industry?” You have to laugh. Why would they want to do that? And so it is with the iPad apps and the media publishing industry “Will Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily save the newspaper and magazine industry?” Well, that’s no laughing matter.