Monday, May 17, 2010

Intro for Chris Nealon, Portland, 5/15/10

Rumors of the death of the poet-critic have been greatly exaggerated, and Chris Nealons here tonight as living proof. They make nice across the hyphen, that poet and critic, but often the join conceals a hostile standoff. In one corner theres the poet, all subjectivity and trill; in the other, the Parnassian pro, dispassionately assessing the field.

Once upon a time, good poet-critics smoothed the rift by drinking. Chris, I think, provides a healthier alternative. Across his critically informed poetry and poetically shapely criticism, hes found a way to put his lefty-right brain to work on two sides of the same theme: the fizz that occurs when you drop a stray self into history.

Its a sharp, capacious, burning sort of remedy. The self in his equation can be anyone from Hart Crane to Alanis’s ex-boyfriend; the historical surround can be 50s muscle mags or plummeting derivatives markets. Along the way theres space made for Seleucids, Olivettis, Walkmans, JiffyLubes, Israelites, Tyvek and Lukacs; Art Song and techno; Marxist smarts and pure despair. To re-purpose a line from Yeats:

O poet swayed to music, O critics glance,
How can you be the disco and the dance?

Open your notebooks and prepare to learn from the many-minded Chris Nealon.


mark wallace said...

A good intro, Rodney. Wish I could have been there.

rodney k said...

Thanks, Mark. You got a nice shout-out last night from David Wolach, who read a poem dedicated to you.