The poems are petulant, myopic and petty, as their star is either whining about the unbearable torture of life and love or regretting something he once felt.... What’s more, Infinity Blues chokes on its lazy, lavish use of postmodern devices: Adams tosses around unorthodox forms, line and character spacing, indulgent repetition, and inconsistent capitalization so often that they accomplish nothing except to render an exhausting read. Adams writes like an undergraduate who picked up volumes of Charles Bukowski, E.E. Cummings and William S. Burroughs at the used bookstore last semester, and now — back at home and missing his girlfriend — is trying those oversized clothes on for size over spring break....Currin situates the publication of this book in the context of our contemporary society’s celebrity obsession, and wonders whether such work would have been published at all if Ryan Adams were not a well-known musician. It made me think about all the deserving poets out there who struggle to get any publisher at all, who don’t have the benefit of a music career to get them noticed. On the other hand, Akashic has published some great writers and is an important independent press. Akashic would no doubt beg to differ with Currin’s review, and I am guessing would stand by the Adams book as a valuable piece of literature in its own right. In a strange way, then, Currin’s piece ends up a recruiter to Infinity Blues itself: whether Akashic got it wrong, or Currin did, I can’t tell until I read it.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
On a review of a Ryan Adams poetry book
There’s a very funny review of the Ryan Adams poetry collection Infinity Blues (Akashic Books), published in the Independent Weekly, and here in their online version Indyweek.com. The piece, by Grayson Currin, is a great example of a reviewer tearing a book to shreds in a really smart, clever way. I have not read the collection myself, so I can’t judge whether all of the criticisms in the piece are warranted. To give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they may not all be. As I understand it, Adams was something of a controversial figure in the Raleigh-Chapel Hill-Durham area, where his music career began with Whiskeytown, and there’s a chance that some of that could have tinged Currin’s piece (this is pure speculation too, as I don’t know much about Currin or his motivations). However, it seems quite possible that Currin is mostly right, because there is so much bad poetry out there that what he describes feels oh so familiar: