What The "Subprime Poetry Crisis" Means For The Overheated Metaphor Market
Last night at a poetry reading marking the release of the 2008 Best American Poetry anthology the distinguished poet and Finding Forrester star Charles Bernstein delivered a stirring plea for swift intervention to stave off the subprime poetry crisis. "As we know, lax composition practices since the advent of modernism led to irresponsible poets and irresponsible readers," he said. "Simply put, too many poets composed works they could not justify." (Read the whole thing; it is awesome.) But it made me anxious! At the risk of pronouncing a subprime trend post by adding this news to that of the subprime mortgage crisis and the subprime celebrity crisis I personally underwrote, I am going to leap a few logical conclusions ahead and ponder whether this liquidity crunch has begotten too many issuances of new metaphors.No one has done more to glut this market than I. Back in March I whined that all men in New York treated women like "complex illiquid financial instruments that are difficult to value" and then in April I was back comparing the stock market's overreactions to conflicting economic indicators to an unhealthy relationship with a horny teenage boy. Then yesterday an ex-paramour with whom I was G-chatting compared our relationship to "capitalism in its late stages." Meanwhile on Wall Street the bankers have been actively trading in a reverse play on all those market metaphors. Yesterday it appeared that Goldman Sachs had lobbied the New York Times to run a clarification of a story it had run characterizing the venerable bank as "ailing"; "embattled," both parties agreed, was a more appropriate term. Since when did bankers give a shit about language, right? I mean, since when did they really even read? But suddenly, betrayed by the illiquid market in jargon, acronyms and euphemisms they once believed to be so safe, they've been drawn back in to the world of blue chip words, challenged to find their places among the varying shades of snide and "Pollyannish," dismissive and philosophical, populist and fatalist, conveyed when one chooses to broker seriously in enough palpable words like "crisis" and "panic," "meteoric" and "deterioration," "besieged" and "implosion" that they can more honestly reevaluate the fundamentals of the old pink-sheet pejoratives of "bailout," "protection" and "socialism." So who knows, maybe everyone is properly hedged. Maybe a skyrocketing Gross National Metaphor index could even shore up civil society and strengthen our frayed national fabric! Like the internet, but also the opposite of the internet.