the critical character

(i wish it was sunday morning!)


i must admit, eric selinger is a kind and thoughtful gentlemen (much unlike me, so i much appreciate it). in the post below, he writes:

As for ending the piece with Sarah Cortez, you’re absolutely right to see that as a return to the opening “conquistador” gesture, and I see exactly what you’re saying about the move. Read skeptically, as you do, it’s exactly what you describe: an eroticizing of the Other, in which xenophilia mixes uncomfortably with exploitation. I knew that at the time. My hope was that the particulars of that poem, “Late Night Torta,” balanced out the power relationship somewhat, even reversing them. (In the text, the prospective lover is told what to do in order to “lift” the speaker, by the close, to a position of pleasure and power–an elevation that the poem equates with the triumph of the Virgen’s “dark Indian eyes” over the Spanish Bishop, or so I saw it at the time.) Like much in the piece, that could have been improved–but we do what we can in the time that we have, and go from there.

Also, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to end with Cortez because I liked her work so much. She’s not in Francisco’s anthology, as Maria Melendez is, so I thought my readers might not head out in search of her work without that extra emphasis. A risky, even self-indicting gesture, but I figured that the potential costs to my own reputation (Selinger, the aesthetic sex tourist, who likes poems for all the wrong reasons!) were worth the potential benefits to hers.


altho i agree that cortez’ work does express an empowering sexuality, i’m not sure how much of that comes thru when placed within selinger’s frame. are the selections from cortez enough to subvert the conquistador trope (or the history that the trope bears with it), as selinger claims? or does it simply become subsumed in its use to fulfill the trope? of course, i dont really think selinger is an ‘aesthetic sex tourist’ (!), i just question how effective this touristic / imperialistic frame is in presenting latino poetry (or any kind of ethnic poetry).

yes he’s right to call me out for my skeptical reading. the ‘s’ in cs, stands for ‘skeptical’ (it used to stand for ‘sentence’ but people kept mistaking me for ‘francine prose’s’ nephew.)


selinger adds:

By “my readers,” above, I meant “my readers in Parnassus: Poetry in Review,” where the piece first appeared. I don’t know the actual demographics, but I suspect that most are white and middle-aged, evenly divided (more or less) between male and female. If I’d written the piece for LPR, the tone and the whole “character” that I create for myself in it would have been different. (How the substance would have changed, I’m really not sure. Probably would have requested to do it as a dialogic piece, an exchange with some other, more knowledgeable reader, rather than flying solo.)


how interesting. i like the idea of a ‘dialogic piece’. a much less problematic critical ‘character’.

anyhoo, thanks for your engaging comments & perhaps others will comment too?



4 thoughts on “the critical character

  1. Hi Craig:
    Since I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with both you and Eric in person and in correspondence, I think I am in a position to say that what you both very much have in common is a real passion for poetry, and it’s a pleasure seeing it being played out here. Although I can only speak for myself, I’m enjoying this dialogue.

  2. thanks francisco, you are very kind. but hows about making this a polylogue!

    the skeptic

  3. “Metaphors of a Magnifico”, Wallace (Lettucy Stegner) Stevens.

    Also, a very great response by Mr. Selinger: heartening to see poise when faced with flak. Is the internet changing? Are we all becoming sane, eloquent and intelligent communicators now?

    If so, I feel strangely afraid. Perhaps I need to watch some Fox.

  4. nicholas gets the point 😉

    dont be afraid, it’s all downhill from here, i promise


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