This Old Poem #72:
Diane Glancy’s Primer Of The Obsolete
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/7/03


  Diane Glancy is another of Minnesota’s Academic scree. A woman lacking in any real writing talent, she has scraped together a decent teaching career, nonetheless. & she is a nice enough woman, BUT why, oh, why does she feel that makes her a writer? Here’s why:


  Diane Glancy was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother of English and German descent and to a father of Cherokee descent. She has written numerous works across a wide range of genres, including Brown Wolf Leaves the Res and Other Poems (1984); Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears (1996); War Cries, a collection of one- and two-act plays (1997); and The West Pole, a series of vignettes (1997). Through her writing, Glancy seeks to recover and preserve her "displaced part-Indian, part-white, mixed-message heritage." She has received many awards and honors, including the American Book Award and the Native American Prose Award for her first collection of essays, Claiming Breath (1992). Diane Glancy received her Master's degree from Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. She is currently Assistant Professor in the English Department at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches courses in creative writing and Native American literature.


  Perhaps the only ‘Native American’ writer who is also part non-Native to have any real success as a writer (I mean literarily, not financially) is Louise Erdrich- a passable prosist & passable poet, at times. DG is in that long line of basically middle class, middle-brow bourgeoisie that bizarrely think that slim ties to a minority heritage somehow elevates their ‘life experience’ into fodder for art. A few months back she was on NPR talking about Sacagawea, & twisting this rather banal story of a young American Indian woman who was a minor player on the Lewis & Clark expedition into both a feminist’s & Native American’s seminal character study.

  But, put aside her relentless need to justify her own ethnic being- her writing, especially the poetry, flat out stinks. It is just prose broken into lines, with occasional bilingual forays to spice things up. Here’s a typical snippet from her ‘poem’ Leeroy's Wife Paint Nails:


She paint the nail like a boat she rowd.
She leave the polish in the wake of her rowing.
She couldn't cross the ice midwinter
but whad's the fingernail but a frozen surface?
Dis thumb a pontoon she say to customer
who stomp out'ta place.
Leeroy's wife think bloodhounds after her.
She think Jesus while she work.

  Written by anyone this would have to be reckoned as racist- especially by the PC Elitists DG calls pals. BUT, since DG is a Native American she can get away with it. Poetically, this is not poetry in any sense of the word- it is chopped up prose. Here’s the proof:


  She paint the nail like a boat she rowd. She leave the polish in the wake of her rowing. She couldn't cross the ice midwinter but whad's the fingernail but a frozen surface? Dis thumb a pontoon she say to customer who stomp out'ta place. Leeroy's wife think bloodhounds after her. She think Jesus while she work.


  Look at the childish syntax, the deliberate misspellings & mispronunciations- not just deliberate but over-the-top exaggerations. Attach a name like Todd McElroy to writing like this & you have dimwitted college kids protesting, & shouting down the writer, or even causing such a ruckus that the writer is not allowed on campus. But put such dreck- artistically & socially- in front of a writer who has ‘identified’ themselves as part of an ‘oppressed group’ & this shows ‘insight’ into that group’s pain & suffering. This is 1 of the main reasons to divorce the art from the artist.

  Yet, in truth, the ‘poem’s’ statements & whole style is so generic that it could have been written by any of 100s of ‘oppressed writers’. Contrast that to the individuated stamp that writers like a Langston Hughes, early Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen, Sylvia Plath, or Hart Crane put on their poetry. Diane Glancy? Sammy Two-Feathers? Does it matter? On to the slop this essay is about:


Primer of the Obsolete


Jut a word into the silence
hardly anyone notices
the corner room
a blue piece of wall
the sausage on a plate
as if looking for an airport.
It was not the same sound running over us
heard until we could not think.
My wife (meal maker for me) a-g(w')-s-ta'-yv-hv-s-gi'
cornbread a-l(i)-s-ta-i-di
sweet potatoes se'lu ga'-du
pumpkin pie nu:-n(a)-ni'nu-hi'd(a).
It was a wave sort.
A nothing at the rim.
A something at the core.
A switch from being watched.


  What is this poem about? ‘Self-discovery’- I am unique! All those wonderful platitudes that are so intellectually unchallenging that they lay dead on the plate for any PC Elitist to chew on until mushy. At least half a dozen clichés- & this time I’m not even underlining them for you. They should be manifest to your tutored eyes. Then there are the PC clichéd tropes- the phonetic breakdown of non-English words, the descent into wordliness itself, & the banal attempts to append some deep idea to it all. What is obsolete? Nothing definite- or everything. Don’t you love it when bad art flaunts its lack of meaning as a sign that it can mean anything? Perhaps she is slyly commenting that this ‘Postmodern’ technique is obsolete? No such luck, for DG’s verse is far too earnest to be tricky. Where are the markers to support an assertion like that? There are none.


Primer of the Obsolete


Jut a word.
A blue piece of wall.
An airport.
Not the same.

Sound running over us.
A wave.

A switch.

Being watched.


  No, I have not transmogrified this into Leda And The Swan. But the trite narrative is gone, & the poem can be read as lines which reflect the title, or build upon another- a de facto imagistic narrative- 1 which could be playing off the titular word ‘obsolete’. &- oh, no more. I know even this brief toothcombing is deemed damnable to DG & her ilk. Instead, let me leave you with this little edifying snippet from DG’s own pen:


“' Eee ay who tow' is about the jumbled way the world looks to someone who is not familiar with it--or born into it. It's the way I look at the English language. The wonderment of its variety and variables--the exciting 'misreadings' of it. Hosanna, for example, is also rendered, annosoh, sohanna and nasohna. The same is true of ansonal. . . It is simply the misrepresentation of arsenal. . . Words are tied down to their basic structures but free to roam and sometimes transmute to other forms". . . "Yet I am left standing with a kernel of joy in my hand. It is to yodel and inhabit even for a brief moment that space between the octave jump as we are thrown from one sphere to another” (last quote from Glancy's essay "Part II in an Essay in Which There is Really No Part I.")

  This is so deep, eh?

Final Score: (1-100):

Diane Glancy’s Primer Of The Obsolete: 45
TOP’s Primer Of The Obsolete: 62

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