Saturday, May 07, 2005

Shameful Memories

Paul Guest must be approaching some record with 77 comments so far on his blog on guilty pleasures. It’s not exactly a guilty pleasure, but I was reminded of one of my own shameful memories. I am old enough that in 1967 I was a teenager attending the legendary Monterey Pop Festival. One of my biggest regrets in life, and one of the stupidest things I ever did, was missing the Janis Joplin performance. I saw Laura Nyro and Hugh Masakela, for God’s sake, but I missed Janis Joplin! That’s not the shameful part, though. The shameful memory is that I was one of those people in the audience—and there were lots of us even though no one wants to admit it now—who thought Jimi Hendrix sucked. Yes, I thought Jimi Hendrix doing “Wild Thing” was just a mess of noise and I wanted him hauled off the stage so we could get to the Mamas and the Papas. What can I say? I was young and foolish.

That’s a perfect example, I think, of why one needs to be careful about rejecting experimental poetry as “just noise.” Almost anything original is just noise the first time you hear it, whether it’s Jimi Hendrix or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Almost anything original has no emotional meaning the first time you hear it, but someday Mahler or Coltrane may bring tears to your eyes. Anyway, I’m interested in the shameful memories people have of gross aesthetic misjudgments they have made.


Diane K. Martin said...

You won't believe this (or maybe you will), but my shameful memory also involved Jimi Hendrix--and I suffer from it! Because I said I didn't like Hendrix, my promised ride to Woodstock (yes, Woodstock) was withdrawn. (I had the alternative option of going with my dorky brother who was going to make a profit selling bagels to the starving masses or not go. I didn't go.)

I had a similar lapse about Janis Joplin...

I think in poetry we have to walk a line: we have to trust out judgment, not shout out "fabulous" to any naked Emperor who walks by, but also allow that taste in art develops and grows--and we are the losers if we are too rigid and close minded.

David Koehn said...

My mistakes in aesthetic judgement? I think I could have a daily blog on this subject alone.