Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsBook Review

Correspondence

September 29, 2002

To the editor:

I won't argue with Ruth Franklin's curious idea (Book Review, Sept. 15) that place has nothing essential to do with poetry (although her assertion that the premise of my anthology, "Poems of the American West," is that "everything must happen somewhere" is little short of ludicrous). But one might reasonably expect a critic not to be such a careless reader. She seems to think that the West of my book extends to the Mississippi, which, as the foreword makes clear, it does not. She wonders why Arkansas should be included, although Arkansas does not once appear. She thinks there is some cowboy poetry in the book: There is none. She complains about too many references to creosote (since the West "lends itself to cliche"), but I am pretty sure there are no more than two little creosote bushes in 250 pages. And she says that the book has a "homogeneous feel" because it has very little verse from the 19th century (as if there were a lot to choose from) and because there are too many "male writers." Last but not least, she doesn't seem to know very much about the art of poetry: I am sure there are a lot of wonderful poems in the "Poems of New York," but just about every line she chooses to quote is godawful.

Robert Mezey

Claremont

*

Ruth Franklin replies:

I'm glad Robert Mezey and I can at least agree on the unsuitability of Arkansas for "Poems of the American West": It was there in the galleys, but he changed his mind before his book went to press. As for "cowboy poetry," I guess he doesn't think poems about cowboys qualify. But Mezey does not dispute the point of my review, which was not to count the references to creosote but to show that symbols of the West do not suffice to make a poem "Western." If a poem is to be truly "of" the American West rather than just "about" it, it needs to express the West in its concept: The landscape is almost incidental.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|