Thursday, October 20, 2011

The poem as zombie, the zombie as poet

Christopher Ricks on Philip Larkin, in Dylan's Visions of Sin:
This sentence [paraphrase of a Larkin poem] exercises a summary injustice. It is not much more than perfunctory gossip, whereas Larkin's three sentences are a poem. The poet makes these dry bones live -- or rather, since he is not a witch-doctor and the poem is not a zombie, he makes us care that these bones lived. 
(A phrase I remember hearing a lot in workshoppy college classes was "this sonnet comes to life in l. 10"; for some reason no one felt compelled to add that it staggers through the next five lines grunting and attempting to devour the reader's brain.)

Colson Whitehead on his zombie book:

For me, the terror of the zombie is that at any moment, your friend, your family, you neighbor, your teacher, the guy at the bodega down the street, can be revealed as the monster they've always been.

(Which, come to think of it, is apt if applied to Larkin, "the sewer under the national monument" etc.)

This bit from Elif Batuman's uncharacteristically boring NY'er article (gated; the outtakes on her blog are good though) caught my eye:
the endangered white-headed duck [...] has one of the highest penis-to-body ratios of all vertebrates. Its pliant, corkscrew-shaped penis is longer than its body, with a spiny base and brush-like tip. The first time Cagan observed one of these outgrowths, he thought the duck had been disemboweled. 

Puerile to pick this bit out, I know, but the piece is at its best in these sections.

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