The Family Doesn’t Always Fit in the Frame

March 23, 2009

in History,Invention,Poetry,Storytelling,Thinking

From David Orr’s article on “Greatness” in poetry:

“What is strange,” the poet-critic J. D. McClatchy writes, “is how her influence . . . has been felt in the literary culture. John Ashbery, James Merrill and Mark Strand, for instance, have each claimed [Elizabeth] Bishop as his favorite poet. . . . Since each of them couldn’t be more different from one another, how is it possible?”

It’s possible in the same way that other “great” artists have inspired diverse sets of peers and progeny.

There’s the old story about the Velvet Underground, that not many people actually heard them, but nearly everyone who did went and started a band. Were they great? I think some of their songs are — the droning “All Tomorrow’s Parties” has been a favorite of mine since I was twelve or thirteen. Detractors grumble about them playing out of tune, the unevenness of their rhythm section, the sloppy mixing, or the chaotic performances.

But beyond those petty complaints, what better legacy could you ask for than seeding an entire generation that grew in so many different directions?

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: