Since coming to Cornell, Culler has written and edited a total of 16 books; over 200 articles, essays, and translations. He has also been awarded multiple fellowships and was elected a fellow at renowned humanities research institutes such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. One of this books, “Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction”, has been translated into 27 languages worldwide.
When we’re visiting a place most of us need a reminder that it exists apart from our visiting perspectives, that the visitor’s center doesn’t include event listings for too-early funerals because of cancer or lung disease or opioid overdoses, and that no visit or poem or song will every fully convey what it is like to pin your life to a place.
While people worldwide were mourning Mary Oliver’s death, I was at home celebrating my 20th birthday. I saw the news scrolling through Tumblr, the platform that had first made me fall in love with her work at the age of 11. You’ve probably seen the lines “What is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” on Facebook or Twitter or staring down at you accusingly from your middle school English teacher’s classroom wall. However, although Oliver’s work regularly appears on sites like Pinterest, it doesn’t quite translate to social media in the same, trite way as you might think at first glance. Last semester, I wrote a column criticizing Instapoets like Rupi Kaur for sacrificing depth and poetic language for accessibility in order to gain Internet stardom.
As a writer, there are few things that make me feel grateful to be alive the way poetry does. This past Thursday, the Cornell Department of English hosted author Gregory Pardlo as the first guest in the Fall 2018 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series. Pardlo’s collection, Digest, was the recipient of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 2007, his first book of poetry, Totem, won the American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize. This past April, he published Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood, which was named one of “17 Refreshing Books to Read This Summer” by the New York Times.
Recently, as I was perusing the poetry section of a Barnes and Noble, I was surprised to come across a section containing volumes by Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, r. h. sin, and the like. My surprise was not at seeing these collections standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those by Keats and Lorca but at the fact that the sight so resembled the shelves of poetry I’d seen a few weeks earlier at an Anthropologie. These “Instapoets,” as they’ve been called, seem to be everywhere, like a plague of clichés, unpunctuated verse, and ill-timed line breaks. These poets have huge social media followings — take Kaur, for example, who with 1.5 million Instagram followers seems to be the most popular. Kaur first garnered attention when she posted a picture on Instagram of herself in bed on her period, menstrual stains on her pants and bedsheets.