Poetry in the Weeds
The New York Times publishes a men’s fashion style magazine several times a year. I usually don’t read the New York Times men’s fashion magazine because it’s long been my observation that most men are fairly ugly and sport goofy expressions. The graven guys in the Times are neither ugly nor goofy. Their world is far from mine. And the photographs of the models remind me very much of Edward Hopper paintings, with isolated, stiff subjects. It’s a cold, lonely world, the men’s fashion kingdom.
But the March 10, 2013, issue caught my eye because it promises a story about a most unusual bookshop. True to its billing, the tiny shop in Toronto stays in business by offering no book I’d ever want to buy. “There are Victorian etiquette handbooks, antique sex manuals, obscure scientific treatises. There are forgotten 19th-century travelogues with sumptuous chromolithographs and leather-bound correspondence courses on fingerprinting.” In other words The Monkey’s Paw hawks just the perfect tome for those Hopper guys, and the Times recommends the store’s strategy as a “way forward for the old-fashioned bookstore in the age of the iPhone and the e-book.”
But wait, the March 10 men’s fashion issue offers much more for the literati. Young Poets. Five Lilly Poetry Fellowship winners peer out at us with thoughtful, vague expressions, next to a sample of their work and footnotes that say things like, “Hofmann wears an [sic] Hermes coat, $2,925; hermes.com.” Put aside that a Lilly Fellow gets $15,000 a year and isn’t likely to spend a fifth of that on a jacket. Put aside the question whether a French name gets to bend an English indefinite article. Just concentrate on that poetry lodged among all those buff underwear models and wounded jean wearers. Believe me, the poetry doesn’t win.