Monday, August 27, 2007

The man from Nantucket...

Before this month, Fosco thought he had MTV pegged. After all, we grew up together. We were interested in music around the same time (the 1980s). We both agreed that it was funny when fame-seeking sociopaths slapped each other and smoked cigarettes on top of Mount Everest (the 1990s). Sure, MTV and Fosco grew apart in the 00s, as Fosco gravitated toward critical theory and Victorian novels and MTV became interested in carving transsexual men into J-Lo. But that's okay--sometimes good friend develop different interests and still remain friends.

But recently, Fosco feels like he doesn't even know MTV anymore. First, he finds out that MTV "has an esteemed research pedigree" (!). When did this happen? Has MTV become a sociological powerhouse behind Fosco's back? Is it possible that MTV is secretly a think tank?

And now, believe it or not, a branch of MTV called mtvU has named John Ashbery as MTV's very own poet laureate! Yes, America's most distinguished living poet (sorry, Greg Orr). The NYTimes article notes that

Excerpts of his poems will appear in 18 short promotional spots — like commercials for verse — on the channel and its Web site (, which will also feature the full text of the poems).
According to the Times,
The excerpts were chosen by David Kermani, Mr. Ashbery’s business manager, and two interns and an employee, all in their early 20s, in his office.

“We were just trying to pick lines that were catchy and sort of meaningful in some way, something that would appeal to what we thought younger people would be interested in,” Mr. Kermani said. These young people picked “things that had sort of raunchy references,” he added. “They thought it was sort of a hoot.”
Hmmm. Perhaps after Ashbery, mtvU will branch out into other poets. I think I can help them pick some poets and lines that might resonate with "younger people":
  • Carl Phillips: "The body is not an allegory—it/can't help that it looks like one, any more than/it can avoid not being able to stay" ("Sea Glass").
  • Robert Lowell: "I rub my head and find a turtle shell/stuck on a pole" ("The Neo-Classical Urn").
  • Lawrence Raab: "Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower./You know I always loved you" ("Attack of the Crab Monsters").
  • Andrew Marvell: "Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound/My echoing song; then worms shall try/That long preserv'd virginity" ("To his Coy Mistress").
  • Sylvia Plath: "There's a stake in your fat black heart/And the villagers never liked you./They are dancing and stamping on you" ("Daddy").
  • Allen Ginsberg: "The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!/The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand/and asshole holy!" ("Footnote to Howl").
  • John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: "Nor shall our love-fits, Chloris, be forgot,/When each the well-looked linkboy strove t'enjoy,/And the best kiss was the deciding lot/Whether the boy fucked you, or I the boy" ("The Disabled Debauchee").
Now, in all seriousness... perhaps Fosco is being insufficiently cynical here, but this whole thing doesn't seem like that bad an idea.

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