David Dick reviews 'Satan Repentant' by Michael Aiken

David Dick reviews 'Satan Repentant' by Michael Aiken

Satan Repentant

by Michael Aiken

UWA Publishing, $22.99 pb, 140pp, 9781742589770

David Dick

David Dick

David Dick has recently finished a PhD on John Ashbery's poetry at Monash University

It is time to repent my sins. Recently, I have been asking myself if poetry is exempt from a need to entertain. Is the act of reading a poem or a book of poetry an escapist, amusing, joyous diversion from the rigours of reality? Or is it something more tedious, cold-blooded, blandly intellectual – an act not of enjoyment, but of control and imposition?

If you scan enough poetry criticism, it would be fair to assume that entertainment is a distant consideration in measuring poetic quality. The contemporary critic seems less intent on enjoying the work than on trying to explain it; in effect, coming to own it, being smarter than it, displacing it for the critic’s own broad theories and elucidations. Poetry criticism is a show whose performative message is, ‘I belong here. I get this.’

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Published in October 2018, no. 405

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