Monday, 23 April 2012

Claptrap Canon, Ctd

Todd Swift, one of the co-editors of the Modern Canadian Poets anthology, responds to Zach Wells' review:
"His claim that our selection process was cack-handed is illogical. By definition, the one thing that editors of anthologies comprehend is who they include—we knew what we were doing. If Wells wishes to question our selections, so be it. But to have it both ways, to say our selections are both incompetent, and also mendacious, seems absurd. There is a glimpse of a different review here, when Wells actually admits that we have included some of the great, often unsung Canadian poems. However, the tireless editors are not credited with this. For that would imply that Wells would have to admit the existence of minds greater than his, working at some remove from his little train set—that is, the set of all things that include Wells."


David Godkin said...

Without passing judgment on his anthology (I haven’t read it, but hope to) I’m troubled by a few things in Swift’s response. First is his almost wholesale ad hominem attack, something he accuses Wells of, with far less evidence in the review to support this. Second, that Swift spends so little time providing a detailed response to Wells' concerns, relying finally on the wonderful things others, admitted authorities, have had to say about the anthology. A smaller point is Swift’s own retreat into the absurd, as occurs in the passage above where he suggests that incompetence and mendacity cannot live side by side in the same work product. It can and often does.

I admire both these writers very much and frankly find the rancor unsettling – not because people shouldn’t disagree vigorously, but that what sometimes gets lost along the way are intellectual clarity and a certain caring for the people who might be reading their exchange. I think Swift errs more in this regard than Wells, who provided a mostly disinterested and detailed assessment of the book at hand. I am only left to wonder a little why he expended so much care and attention on a book he so obviously disliked and why its defender hardly defended the book at all.

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