American Poetry and the New York Times
Noted for the patriotic attention it gives to wholesome American poetry, the New York Times raised the bar by publishing David Orr’s review of Directing Herbert White: Poems (Graywolf, paper, $15) by the “all-around celebrity” James Franco. David Orr claims that Franco has 2.2 million Twitter followers. Orr might be appealing indirectly to that audience as he asserts that Franco’s book “is the sort of collection written by reasonably talented M.F.A. students in hundreds of M.F.A. programs stretching from sea to shining sea.” If each of Franco’s Twitter followers bought a copy of Directing Herbert White, Graywolf would be pleased and Franco would be amused. America would set a publishing record unmatched anywhere in the world.
Unfortunately, David Orr spoils the fantasy with the “total slaughter” of a penultimate sentence in his Sunday Book Review piece of July 17 (online) and July 20 (print): “Poetry is the weak sister of its sibling arts, alternately ignored and swaddled like a 19th –century invalid, and that will change only by means of a long, tedious, and possibly futile effort at persuasion.”
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
July 18, 2014