Poetic Power Essay

Poetic Power Essay-88
The phrase “equipment for living” is taken from Kenneth Burke, who also wrote that form is “a public matter that symbolically enrolls us with allies who will share the burdens with us.” Robbins likes this. Reading poems is normally a solitary pastime, and so is a lot of music listening, except at concerts, where the emotions aren’t really your own. The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” once an anthem of antiwar protesters, is played at Trump rallies.I think it means that the experience of poems and songs is shared with other people, even if often implicitly, and so it can be a means of achieving solidarity. I assume it instills feelings of solidarity among his supporters.The rest of us need German poetry and Norwegian black metal because they provide the illusion that we are changing, or have changed, or will change, or even to change our lives.” I don’t completely agree, but it’s a wise caution. I enjoyed almost all of “Equipment for Living,” but I found Robbins most clever and entertaining when he is trying to make sense of what redeems bands like Journey and Def Leppard, or poets like Dylan Thomas and James Dickey.

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” And I used to think the Beatles were only worth listening to after “Help!

”But how are poems and pop songs “equipment for life”? “There is no limit to what a poem can’t do,” Robbins writes on one page; “poetry makes all sorts of things happen,” he says on the next. He doesn’t want to give in to the fantasy that poems taught to and songs bought by millions of people are also subversive of the established order.

And, in fact, a surprising amount of pop-music criticism is bottled nostalgia, owls that fly at dusk.

In preparation for writing about “Equipment for Living,” I got a copy of “Shake It Up” (Library of America), an anthology of fifty years of pop-music criticism, “from Elvis to Jay Z,” edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar.

Springsteen and Dylan speak to our current condition, and so do Boethius and Sappho. The responsible scholarly impulse is to historicize: those words were never intended for you, they signified something completely different in 600 B. “Every song you loved when you were young turns into ‘Tintern Abbey,’ ” as he puts it.“I cannot paint / What then I was,” Wordsworth wrote in that poem, about revisiting the banks of the Wye as a grownup (only five years later, actually, but it’s a poem).

Robbins expresses the sentiment this way: “As I listen to ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ ’ today, once again, in the arena of my soul, how high the highest Bic lights the dark.” You can’t go back to being fifteen, but you can remember with respect and longing that time of life, a time when, as Georg Lukács once put it, “the fire that burns in the soul is of the same essential nature as the stars.” Oh, no! “Listening to most rock and roll now involves remembering what it used to do for me that it can’t anymore,” Robbins says.

The book is a collection of mostly previously published pieces, some on poetry, some on pop music, some on both, written, as the names suggest, in a critical style that could be called advanced pop.

Advanced-pop criticism would be criticism premised on the belief that you can talk about cultural goods loved uncritically by millions in terms originally developed to talk about cultural goods known mainly to an overeducated few.

Partly it’s because pop-music journalism arose out of the intersection of early rock-and-roll magazines like , when they still had an alternative-press aura, and the New Journalism, with its promiscuous use of the first person, and that gave it a confessional tone and a voice that suggested that we’re all on the same side in the struggle, whatever struggle it is.

But rock criticism does appear to be fixated on what has been lost. It seems that in the pop-music business the shelf life of authenticity is tragically short.


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