Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Poets Confessing

I was at this bar once with a bunch of English professors when one professor suddenly suggested we all confess our literary sins. We should admit what great books we dislike.

He started by admitting that he had never read Moby Dick, nor did he ever want to. He had, in fact, taught it once.

Another said he despised Henry James so much, he had suggested the students to read Cliff Notes instead. This was at a college where Cliff Notes were not allowed.

A third one said he didn't care for contemporary American poetry. It's too sloppy, too undefined, too anything goes.

Have you read much of it? the others asked.

No, he admitted. I don't read what I don't like.

How can you do that and be an English professor? I asked. Everyone laughed.

I noticed suddenly that no one wanted to confess anymore. I didn't want to join in with my dislike of Sylvia Plath. I know, as a woman poet of my generation, I am supposed to love her, but I am allergic to her voice.

There was a heavy weight in the air just then, like the ghosts of the unmentioned dead were waiting behind our chairs, listening for their names to be called. I could almost see Sylvia watching me, twirling her long blonde hair.


Lyle Daggett said...

In high school I was spared the misery of reading The Scarlet Letter. (I think at one point it may have been one choice among four or five books we could choose to read for English class, and I picked something else to read.)

Something like 25 years later I decided to attempt it. I got halfway through and couldn't bear another word. I haven't gone back to it.

Among poets, I can't stand John Ashbery.

January said...

I'm not a big fan of Plath's either.

Marc said...

sylvia is a member of the suicidal school of american poetry - along w/ berryman, roethke, sexton, - there seems to be a trend there - too much $ maybe? too self-absorbed:

if you've never heard plath read "daddy", you should:

Jeannine said...

Ethan Frome. Worst book ever.
Sylvia's great - I think everyone reads her as dark, I just read her as funny. But that could be my sense of humor. The first time I read "Daddy," it was out loud in a college class. I laughed at the end, which I thought was appropriate. The professor and class looked at me really strangely. But I stick with my first reading.

Erin O'Brien said...

Here is something odd. One of my fave books is "McTeague."

I also liked "American Psycho" very much.

Never read Jane Austen. Yeah, yeah.