I hope this is like reading something that is the opposite of me

"I don't repudiate [the description of my work as "cerebral" or "cool"], because who can more cerebral than Stevens, and he's a great poet. Who could be cooler than Elizabeth Bishop? She's cool with me [laughs]. I try to avoid sentimentality in my work. We're on our guard against sentimentality that's based on tender feelings, but we're not on our guard against sentimentality that has to do with rage or fury. I like many Plath poems, but some of the famous ones seem sentimental in a negative key, like "Daddy" or "Lady Lazarus." I sometimes teach in poetry workshops that if you want to avoid sentimentality, you bring in the object world, you bring in irony and humor, and you try to argue against yourself. It's a good way to avoid one-way emotion: qualify emotions by bringing in other kinds of considerations and perceptions. That doesn't mean you don't feel. There's that famous line from Marianne Moore: "So he who strongly feels, behaves."

—Alfred Corn, from an interview with Christopher Hennessy, Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets


  1. I agree to some extent with his statement about Plath. The implication that the absence of irony equals sentimentality, on the other hand, is highly unfortunate.

  2. i agree with the plath bit too, but disagree that we must avoid sentiment or combat it with irony.

    but y'all knew that!

    and i'm not AGAINST irony, per se, I just think it usually needs back-up.