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Monster

Distortion, Abstraction, and Originality in Contemporary American Poetry

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Mark Irwin

Monster: Distortion, Abstraction, and Originality in Contemporary American Poetry argues that memorable and resonant poetry often distorts form, image, concept, and notions of truth and metaphor. Discussing how changes in electronic communication and artificial notions of landscape have impacted form and content in poetry, Monster redefines the idea of what is memorable and original through a broad range of poets including John Ashbery, Anne Carson, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Forrest Gander, Peter Gizzi, Jorie Graham, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Laura Kasischke, W. S. Merwin, Srikanth Reddy, Donald Revell, Mary Ruefle, Arthur Sze, and James Tate.

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Toward a Wilderness of the Artificial

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From Virgil’s Georgics there is a haunting line that I have chosen to tape beneath a reproduction, one of Andy Warhol’s silkscreens of Marilyn Monroe. The line reads: “These manners first by nature taught.” The splashy silkscreen, outlined in aqua, gives us a Marilyn with crayon-yellow hair and pink face upon which aqua eye shadow and red lipstick are beautifully off-registered. Off-registered in such a manner that not only do we feel the slippage between our consumer selves and the unattainable product but—as she begins to close her eyes and open the mouth—those trailing, off-registered colors allow us to participate both in rescue and myth.

Has Warhol redeemed Ceres with this star (from the grain state of Kansas) who dyes her hair, refashions her nose, adds a beauty mark, and via the media becomes a symbol of innocence and sexuality—an innocence and sexuality that seem heightened by an artificial romance? Remember the movie Bus Stop? (“Why I’d go anywhere with you.”) Was Monroe on the edge of a new world, a world in which romance would soon seem artificial?

The uneasy feeling imposed by Virgil’s line, one that for centuries instructed many, still lingers. There is something comforting about the pastel, purposefully garish colors of Warhol’s Marilyn. Cowardly, I want to say something almost natural. The more artificial she appears, the more real she becomes. ← 43 | 44 →

Warhol ushers us into the artificial, and then abandons us to...

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