Monday, March 14, 2011

Why "The Triumph?"

"Oh, I didn't realise that you wrote poetry.
I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry."
--The Smiths, "Frankly Mr. Shankly

So why is this blog named "The Triumph?" Is it because I'm kicking ass and taking names, proving myself the most badass literary critic ever and standing above a pile of my enemies? No-- although make no mistake, that's still the case.
Like that, except that the girl is Stanley Fish.

No, it comes from one of T.S. Eliot's earliest poems, written around the time of the publication of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"--right when the man came out of his corner at the age of 22 (jesus christ I am 22 what am I doing with my life I should have been a pair of ragged claws) swinging about as hard as anybody ever has, punching tradition in the face until the nosebone went into its brain.

Look, Eliot is a symbol of stodgy intellectualism and was for a good chunk of his own life. However, in 1910, the man was the most rebellious poet in the world and it is literally impossible to underestimate how shaken up the world of poetry has been by his work of that year and the 15 years that followed it. In 1910 Eliot was to verse what Scorcese was to film in 1976. And when he was doing that he wrote the poem reprinted below:

Ladies, on whom my attentions have waited
If you consider my merits are small
Etiolated, alembicated,
Orotund, tasteless, fantastical,
Monotonous, crotchety, constipated,
Impotent galamatias
Affected, possibly imitated,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass

Ladies, who find my intentions ridiculous
Awkward insipid and horribly gauche
Pompous, pretentious, ineptly meticulous
Dull as the heart of an unbaked brioche
Floundering versicles feebly versiculous
Often attenuate, frequently crass
Attempts at emotions that turn isiculous,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.

Ladies who think me unduly vociferous
Amiable cabotin making a noise
That people may cry out "this stuff is too stiff for us" -
Ingenuous child with a box of new toys
Toy lions carnivorous, cannons fumiferous
Engines vaporous - all this will pass;
Quite innocent - "he only wants to make shiver us."
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.

And when thyself with silver foot shalt pass
Among the Theories scattered on the grass
Take up my good intentions with the rest
And then for Christ's sake stick them up your ass.

If I've done my job right you should be staring at this picture with an El-P beat roaring in your head.
 "The Triumph of Bullshit" is everything I wanted this blog to be about when I started it. It's the man who would become the Saint of New Formalism peeling away in a Corvette while giving the finger to literary establishment. It is, at its core, Eliot trying to defend literature in its own right and saying that it should stand on its own without the need for critics to prop it up. And he's doing so in the most angry and sarcastic manner that a Harvard boy and converted Royalist could.

And if you were going to ask me the three things I wanted The Triumph to be, they would be:
1. A celebration of the hidden joy of the literary canon.
2. A combination of literary theory, history, and punk-rock mentality.
3. A balance of legitimately educational and stupidly funny.

And I think that, for all of his tweediness and the elbow-patches on his soul (although make no mistake, even in his old, Royalist, anti-Milton, Tory age, the man remains far and away my absolute favorite poet), Eliot at 22 would have agreed with that mentality.
"Have I explained my stance on the Police, and why they should be fucked?"
(Also, I'm pretty sure that the box he's holding in that photo actually has a Nobel Prize in it).

So yeah. That's the story behind the name, that's our official mission statement here at the headquarters of The Triumph (my desk--or, when I'm especially lazy and/or drunk, my bed). And it's also a reminder that, despite the fact that I'm pretty passionate about literature in a way that I'm not about much else, it's pretty much all different flavors of bullshit when you get right down to it.

1 comment:

  1. El-P fits suprisingly well, holy hell.

    Glorious - keep it up.