Saturday, 5 September 2009

take 2 perspectives: fashion

The fashion perspective:

Everybody's going funny about the September issue of Vogue because of R.J. Cutler's real-life 'Devil Wears Prada' documentary, 'The September Issue', which - you guessed it - looks at the making of Vogue's September issue. Only the funny thing is that the documentary leads up to the making of the September 2007 issue, not the 2009 issue so I've no idea why all the sudden fuss over this months issue. It's not even that particularly great of an issue. I digress. What really struck me about this issue was the editor's letter. Someone at Vogue had the great idea that what we need in the middle of an economic recession is a one night global event to lift the world's morale. And what better way to do this than with a night of shopping. Yes, you read that correctly. Shopping....

In her letter, Wintour goes on about how shopping is just the thing to lift us out of our doldrums - all the world needs is to whip out its collective Amex - one hit of the pleasure and joy of fashion and we'll be capitalists back on track in no time. This kind of crap sends me into a tailspin of barking rage. I'm not going to pretend that I don't love fashion, because I do. But mindless, frivolous, idiotic spending sprees are not going to fix our economy. Fashion's fucking Night Out isn't going to have any affect on unemployment figures or market regulations or homelessness. Wintour says that FNO is 'Vogue's response to the notion that in these challenging times, certain kinds of pleasure, such as shopping, are impermissible. I believe that on the contrary, this is exactly the moment to insist on the harmless (and in fact economically beneficial) joys of being out and about and open to inspiration.' AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH. Wake the hell up, woman. People aren't shopping for things they don't need in 'these challenging times' because it's not financially prudent. It's a bit of a no-brainer that if you feel your job might be in jeopardy, you aren't going to be blowing your salary on a new handbag. And what a limited world view: as if the only way to 'be out and about and open to inspiration' was to find the nearest shop and hole up in it. Most museums are free, seeing a film is cheap, hell even sitting on a bench people-watching is more inspiring and interesting than spending an hour in Topshop.

The poet's perspective:

At the Galleria Shopping Mall by Tony Hoagland

Just past the bin of pastel baby socks and underwear,
there are some 49-dollar Chinese-made TVs;

one of them singing news about a far-off war,
one comparing the breast size of an actress from Hollywood

to the breast size of an actress from Bollywood.
And here is my niece Lucinda,

who is nice and a true daughter of Texas,
who has developed the flounce of a pedigreed blonde

and declares that her favourite sport is shopping.
Today is the day she embarks upon her journey,

swinging a credit card like a scythe
through the meadows of golden merchandise.

Today is the day she stops looking at faces,
and starts assessing the labels of purses;

So let it begin. Let her be dipped in the dazzling bounty
and raised and wrung out again and again.

And let us watch.
As the gods in olden stories

turned mortals into laurel trees and crows
to teach them some kind of lesson,

so we were turned into Americans
to learn something about loneliness.


David Grove said...

Have you seen the discussions about the July/August '09 issue of Poetry at Silliman's Blog? Many commentators there--or at blogs to which Silliman has provided links--find Hoagland's contributions inferior to the flarf.

Phoenicia said...

No, and I can't find it anywhere on his blog! It's either not very well organised or I'm just not able to figure it out. Have you got a link, perchance?

I really liked the flarf as well, but will absolutely stand firm in defence of the Galleria poem - I can only speak from the female perspective, but it's a spectacularly perceptive meditation on the hollowness of our 'shopping will save you' culture that is battered into young girls from an early age.

David Grove said...

No doubt both you and Hoagland's poem are quite right about the hollowness of the consumerism that American culture inculcates in girls; however, some readers find this poem boring. Here's a link:

Phoenicia said...

Thanks for the link!

I had a quick trawl through some more blogs and sort of came to the conclusion (not on any significant evidence, mind) that the people who got excited about this issue and wrote about it did so because of the flarf/conceptual poetry and that these same people also seem to be less excited (and frankly, slightly more judgemental) about the more traditional pieces in Poetry.

Surely the coolest thing about this particular issue is that it has BOTH flarf and more traditional poems. Not that I think Hoagland's contributions are incredible pieces of writing, but the sentiment, particularly as it's expressed in the last few lines of Galleria, is quite striking.

Having said that, after flicking through the issue again, I was struck by just how boring and disappointing most of the material is - flarf and all. Either way, definitely not one of their best...