"most contemporary literary fiction is terrible: mannered, conservative and obvious. Most of the stories in the annual best-of anthologies are mediocre, as are the stories that populate most magazines."
Wow, I love it when essays pander to my personal prejudices! Thanks, JR.
He does suggest that it may be good advice for poets:
"Chaon’s argument is perhaps stronger when applied to the world of poetry, which is smaller than that of fiction, and more dependent upon a robust dialogue with itself. The world of poetry is also less risk-averse than that of fiction; poets are more naturally experimental, less embarrassed about strong and unpleasant emotion. Poets aren’t bothered by the same career anxieties fiction writers are — they don’t presume there is any money to be made doing what they do. And poetry is less concerned — not unconcerned, certainly, but less concerned — than fiction with the common idioms of storytelling. Poets are constantly reinventing language. A poet ignores new writing at his or her peril."
Nah. "Hackneyed, insular, boring" --no, not all of it, but far too much.
Agree? Disagree? Let's hear it.
(Of course, maybe it's just Sturgeon's law ("90% of everything is crap."). It's just that, when we talk about poetry from a century ago, the really awful stuff has mostly been forgotten.)
[with a shout-out to Charles Oberndorf for pointing me to this essay.]