Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991)
Stephen Burt has a recent review, “Poems about Poems,” from the Nov/Dec issue of the Boston Review that begins,
If you write a book of poetry about sharks, you might get attention from readers who care about sharks. If you write a book of poetry that is explicitly and consistently about poetry—its institutions and conventions, how we decide what counts as poetry, what we expect it to do—you might get extra attention from readers who care about poetry, which is to say from anyone likely to pick up new poetry at all.
Who, you might ask, would want to write poetry about sharks? But there is, of course, Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, which contains quite possibly the most sublime instance of shark pornography ever written. This is from Georges Hugnet’s translation, published in 1965 by New Directions:
In this month’s issue of The Brooklyn Rail, poet and art critic John Yau has an entertaining and thought provoking retort to Jerry Saltz’s recent praise of Jeff Koons’ massive fin de siècle sculpture Puppy. Yau basically challenges Saltz for over-enthusiastically associating Jeff Koons’ artistic vision with what Saltz calls “our America.”
This is Saltz’s appraisal of Koons (which comes from the pages of New York Magazine):
Koons’s work has always stood apart for its one-at-a-time perfection, epic theatricality, a corrupted, almost sick drive for purification, and an obsession with traditional artistic values. His work embodies our time and our America: It’s big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat-seeking, impeccably produced, polished, popular, expensive, and extroverted—while also being abrasive, creepily sexualized, fussy, twisted, and, let’s face it, ditzy.
And this is Yau’s critique:
I wasn’t bothered by Saltz’s overheated imitation of Frank O’Hara’s prose, its bad alliteration and doubly obvious onomatopoeia. His goo-goo eyed, love-struck declaration that Koons was “the emblematic artist of the decade” was predictable, but not depressingly so. It was his blithe characterization of “our America” that I had trouble with. When he ticked off “big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat seeking…” it seemed to me as if Saltz were talking about what personality traits he and Koons have in common, their ideal attributes, and that America was actually nowhere in sight.
I like him and I’m gonna tell you why using some concepts spelled out in his new book Eating the Dinosaur.
I thought about titling this post, “I Like Chuck Klosterman and I Don’t Feel Bad About It,” and then I read Chuck Klosterman’s essay comparing In Utero-era Kurt Cobain to David Koresh, and Klosterman talks about how Cobain said, right before recording In Utero, “I don’t feel the least bit guilty for commercially exploiting a completely exhausted Rock youth Culture because, at this point in rock history, Punk Rock (while still sacred to some) is, to me, dead and gone.” Klosterman talks about how when people claim they’re not guilty of something they weren’t accused of being guilty of, they are almost always feeling that guilt they’re denying acutely. So, apparently, I am guilty about liking Chuck Klosterman.