Thursday, February 21, 2008

The pricing of poetry, deleted comments, bounced checks and purloined letters

From the diary of an Internet Alice

George Szirtez had an amusing post today about an Internet encounter with a fellow-poet, here.

"This is my part of an exchange with Welsh poet Gwilym Williams, now resident in Austria, who writes on his blog here and here. Gwilym's blog discusses poetry in general and he has interesting things to say about D.H. Lawrence among other things.

The essence of his argument is that, considering their size in terms of pages, poetry books are very expensive. Furthermore, there are relatively few words per page so one is paying even more for even less. He calculates that he has paid roughly 12p per page for Seamus Heaney's District and Circle and argues that poorer prospective readers are priced out of buying books of poetry; that there may indeed be an element of profiteering going on. "

Intrigued by this novel approach to poetry appreciation, I went to check it out myself and noticed that the poetic duel continued somewhat in the comment section until mysteriously interrupted by a note from the blog-master: "Comment deleted, This post has been removed by the blog administrator."

Now definitely my resident imp, the one who sits on my left shoulder and conducts my writing hand, was sedulously engaged.

I wrote, here:

What an extraordinary angle of looking at the worth of poetry! I've only once encountered this price-to-value ratio consideration, in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal", here paraphrased from memory:

Amelia: I usually read history books. They're long and cheap and usually about men killing each other. 900 pages for less than $10, do you realize what a bargain it is?


BTW, what a shame the last two comments were deleted. It made me speculate about what could have been said in them that would merit such a drastic measure. It might have been more equitable to delete all mention to any comment. Leaving the interior of a comment blank is not as suggestive as substituting the comment with the verbal equivalent of a rap across the knuckles from the administrative authority, while depriving the reader from the possibility of judging for themselves.

But maybe I’m just overanalyzing, as, unfortunately, is my wont.

The PIR very graciously acknowledged my comment and complimented me on my name while explaining that his "blog has a 'no comment' policy in respect of deleted posts."

I reciprocated thusly:

"This blog has a 'no comment' policy in respect of deleted posts."

I get your point. It's a bit like TS Eliot's explanation to all those tedious Jews who claimed some of his poems were antisemitic. What he said was that, basically, the persona speaking in the poem is not necessarily identical to the poet who authored it. Thus, the blogger who owns this blog and determines its policies is not identical to the blogger who actually writes this blog.

Thank you for your appreciation of my name. Natural modesty compels me to reveal that it was not I who thought about it but a poet who knew me well enough to suggest it..

BTW, your point about the Bible being about wars etc, was originally taken up by the Goth bishop Wulfila who translated the Bible from Greek into the Gothic language in the fourth century. He omitted, however, the the books of Kings because his Visigothic flock were a warrior-type people and he was afraid that such heroic tales of wars might excite their war-mongering juices.

Imagine my surprise when my informative little comment was deemed unsuitable for the blog, too, and deleted! This time a reason was provided:

"Comments are appreciated but should be confined to the topic of the post. In this case the pricing of poetry books."

I was quite mortified. After all, I was only responding to points the Mr. Williams himself was making! I didn't introduce any new subject, just expanding a little on the themes provoked by his eccentric attitude to the value of poetry and comment policies... What could have triggered the deleting instinct and the prolectical substitute of its contents? Was it the mention of TS Eliot? Wulfila?

As a result of this very short exchange, my mind wandered far afield, to Poe and Seinfeld.

Let's start with Seinfend. It's easier to show the relevance:

New scene in the bodega, starts with a shot of Marcelino's cash register with Jerry's clown check attached under a sign that reads "checks no longer accepted from:".

JERRY: Again, I'm really sorry about the check, Marcelino.

MARCELINO: People seem to like the clowns.

JERRY (takes out his wallet): Look, let me just give you the forty, plus another twenty for your trouble.


JERRY (turning to leave): Aren't you going to take the check down?

MARCELINO: Sorry, no. It's store policy.

JERRY: But it's your bodega.

MARCELINO: Even I am not above the policy.

And now to Poe:

In his story, "The Purloined Letter", Edgar Allan Poe tells the story of a letter, the contents of which - if revealed - would be highly compromising to its writer. The letter was stolen by the villain of the piece with the intent of profiting from its contents by means of blackmail. Let's skip to the end, where the letter is found, in plain sight, and switched by a lookalike piece of paper, in order to mislead the culprit into continued insouciance, ignorant of the fact that the gold-yielding letter was no longer in his possession.

We never find out what the contents of that letter was. We imagine the worst (that it was a billet-doux from an illegitimate lover). But we do get to hear what message the villain would read when he next reached for it:

..In the present instance I have no sympathy --at least no pity --for him who descends. He is the monstrum horrendum, an unprincipled man of genius. I confess, however, that I should like very well to know the precise character of his thoughts, when, being defied by her whom the Prefect terms 'a certain personage,' he is reduced to opening the letter which I left for him in the card-rack."

"How? did you put any thing particular in it?"

"Why --it did not seem altogether right to leave the interior blank --that would have been insulting. D--, at Vienna once, did me an evil turn, which I told him, quite good-humoredly, that I should remember. So, as I knew he would feel some curiosity in regard to the identity of the person who had outwitted him, I thought it a pity not to give him a clue. He is well acquainted with my MS., and I just copied into the middle of the blank sheet the words--

--Un dessein si funeste, S'il n'est digne d'Atree, est digne de Thyeste.

Don't look for symmetrical parallels. It's a simple lesson: he who controls the message, has a certain power. Once the letter writer lost the letter, she no longer controlled its fate, and by inference, whatever harm it would do to her reputation.


At 1:33 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. You seem like a natural writer. Peace

At 11:11 AM EST, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Noga - you are a natural writer, don't let the teeny poet to mislead you. Re the story you told here - unbelievable. Incroyable. Unglaublich. לא יאומן.невероятно.

(I was using Google translator for two of them, of course).

George S. must have been tickled breathless ;-)

At 12:05 PM EST, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Gospodi boj, Snoopy, as my friend Alla would say, (38 years in Israel and still a "Russian" immigrant), you must be bored to tears this morning, or evening, or whatever part of the day it is where you are.


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