. . . Only a little bored . . . “Younare the handsomest man in thenworld”—she says that; it is anmetaphor of a kind. She was collectingnherself, finding herself, innan inconsecutive way, among thenconsecutions of our invention ofnour sexual tone back and forth,nand in the faith that in the sequencenof moments somethingnmight happen and all the momentsn(all our moments) were unbetrayednso far and would be unbetrayednstill at the end, sort of.nThe combination of substance (masturbationnand genius) conveyed by stylen(noisome droning—the Brodkey touch)nis one that leaves something, anything,nand everything to be desired. Reflectionnsuggests that The Runaway Soul,nbesides not having any soul, didn’t runnaway far enough, and that if there hadnbeen any Kiinst, then there might havenalso been some Roman. As it is, thisnthing ranks not only with the worst novelsnI have read in the last 35 years butnwith the most unpleasant experiences Inhave ever endured. To listen to WileynSilenowicz relate the uncanny growth ofnhis narcissistic mind, only to wind upnwith yet another tenderly rendered masturbationnscene after some seven hundrednpages, is enough to confirmnthoughts about the New York literary.nscene that I have long entertained.nConsidering with how much breathlessnexpectancy this book was anticipatedn(for 27 years), we may well wondernabout the competence of those whontouted the author for a generation. Andnwhen we consider the price that is askednnot so much in money as in exasperationnand degradation, we may also wondernabout the state of culture in a nationnwith such an inverted sense of art.n].0. Tate is a professor of English atnDowling College on Long Island.n38/CHRONICLESnPoetry That MattersnbyR.S. GwynnnThe Gods of Winternhy Dana GioianSt. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press;n62 pp., $22.95nIn the May 1991 issue of the Atlanticnpoet and critic Dana Gioia askedn”Can Poetry Matter?” Gioia, who hasnspent most of his working life outside ofnthe academy, warns of a species in dangernof extinction, the vanishing generalnaudience for poetry that existed in thisncountry only a few decades ago. Henfinds it paradoxical that poets “as indi-n’ vidual artists … are almost invisible”nin a time when, judging by the sheernnumbers of publications, readings, andnprofessional sinecures, the art and itsnpractitioners would seem to be in thenmiddle of an American quattrocento.nGioia does not slight the complexity ofnthe cultural antecedents of a “boomn[that] has been a distressingly confinednphenomenon,” but his chief culprits arenthe wildly proliferating spawn of the creativenwriting programs, which have stratifiedninto “a large professional class fornthe production and reception of newnpoetry, comprising legions of teachers,ngraduate students, editors, publishers,nand administrators.” Indeed, the AssociatednWriting Programs (AWP) havenbecome, in the space of only twondecades, one of the most powerfully entrenchednorganizations in Americannacademia.nThe result of this increasingly inbredn”poetry subculture” is that “the energynof American poetry, which was once directednoutward, is now increasingly focusedninward. Reputations are madenand rewards distributed within the poetrynsubculture. … [A] ‘famous’ poetnnow means someone famous only tonother poets. But there are enough poetsnto make that local fame relatively meaningful.nNot long ago, ‘only poets readnpoetry’ was meant as damning criticism.nNow it is a proven marketing strategy.”nGioia is not alone in these fears and is bynno means the first to voice them. Asnearly as 1957 Hugh Kenner remarked,n”I cannot help thinking that a civilizationnis in very perilous condition whennall its writers have been driven into thenuniversities.” It is worth noting in thisnrespect that when we refer to a matter asnnn”academic” we are in fact dismissing itnas unimportant.nGioia offers a few suggestions bynwhich “poets and poetry teachersn[might] take more responsibility fornbringing their art to the public,” amongnthem, reading from other authors atntheir own readings and perhaps allowingnperformance of other art forms tonbe integrated with their own; more candornby poets in reviewing and greaternrigor in editing, especially in the productionnof anthologies that “should notnbe used as pork barrels for the creativewritingntrade”; and an increased attentionnto the public performance of poetry,nboth in the classroom and overncollege and public-supported radio, anmedium hitherto largely neglected.nThese are indeed modest proposals,nmore of a wish list than anything, butnthey and the article’s other remarks occasionednseveral hundred letters to thenAtlantic. The editors were surprised bynthe breadth of the response, observingnseveral months later that they had receivednas well many newspaper clippingsnfrom around the country that commentednon the article.nBecause Gioia dared to call America’snpoetry establishment into question, henhas probably managed to place himselfnpermanently outside its circles of power;nhis new book has been only sparingly reviewed.nYet The Gods of Winter is asngood a book as one is likely to see thisnyear—varied, formally complex, ambitiousnin its two longer poems, and unusuallynfree from the sort of adolescentnself-indulgence that characterizes muchncontemporary American poetry, particularlynthat which comes from the writingnworkshops. In this second collectionnGioia is writing for adults, not the captivencollege reading-circuit crowd, andnit is clear that he respects his audience’snintelligence. Here, in “The Next Poem,”nhe presents an aesthetic description ofnthe type of poetry that he rarely encountersnyet still desires to write:nThe music that of commonnspeechnbut slanted so that each detailnsounds unexpected as a sharpninserted in a simple scale.nNo jumble box of imageryndumped glumly in the reader’snlapnor elegantly packaged junknthe unsuspecting must unwrap.n