"You know my methods. Apply them!"
-- S. Holmes, to Dr. John Watson, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Aaron Haspel is defending himself in typically capable fashion against divers calumnies launched by some who disagree with one or more of his critical judgments. The scoffers' most recent targets include Aaron's suggestion of a simple test to tell poetry from prose ("poetry is what scans") and the righteous lambasting he handed out to Wordsworth last month.
The undeniable delights associated with certain admittedly non-rational poems did not constitute a counter-argument for this critic, who viewed delight with scant charity among the array of poetic values.
He wrote habitually in a tone of irascible self-confidence, but he often wrote with insight, and his judgments offered a needed corrective to the pieties of his time. Even his misjudgments were salutary for many readers: they demonstrated that genius never deserves to be taken on faith but must justify itself, and that many texts admired uncritically out of reverence for tradition might or might not bear rigorous scrutiny but should at least receive it. For ordinary readers, students, and aspiring poets, that was a liberating perspective.
That works for me, but there is ample evidence that others beg to differ.
Call me naive, but I am constantly surprised by the splenetic, even vicious, rhetoric that culturally oriented weblogs vent at one another. You have not swum in invective until you've spent time, for instance, looking at some of the more adamant poetry weblogs, especially those who engage in the interminable "formalist" vs. "post-avant" grudge match. Or perhaps you would rather revel in the mire that is the "functionality and comfort for the occupant are irrelevant/indispensable to architecture" discussion. The particular points of view matter not a whit: each is happy to explain colorfully and at length why the other is a benighted troglodyte, or worse.
I suppose the depth of conviction on display is heartening -- as Aaron observes "Polibloggers vastly outnumber artbloggers because people are less interested in politics, not more. Art is just too damn personal." -- but it's hard not to worry that someone's eye could get poked out. So play nice, kids. And remember: just because a fellow can defend himself is no excuse to pick on him.