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Perloff’s Blurb

What makes the fugitive reviews and informal essays collected in The Mathematical Sublime so remarkable is that their author is unpredictably brilliant and persuasive about such a wide-ranging and seemingly eclectic body of work. What other critic could move so readily between Language Poetry and the New Formalism, between anthologies of contemporary secular Jewish poetry and the theological niceties of Geoffrey Hill, between Robert Sheppard's Twentieth Century Blues and Susan Howe's hauntologies? You never quite know which poetries or critical studies he will like, but he is always persuasive in making his case for them. It's an electrifying performance!

Marjorie Perloff’s blurb on the back cover of Mark Scroggins’ The Mathematical Sublime is an inadvertant description of exactly what bothers me about too much contemporary poetics and criticism. Why shouldn’t a critic be able to handle both langpo and formalism? Why does such eclecticism strike Perloff as so remarkably rare? Everyone outside Academia is exuberantly, unapologetically, and often instinctively eclectic.

I agree with her that Mark Scroggins is “unpredictably brilliant and persuasive.” I’m just annoyed because her blurb reminds me that everything she praises him for shouldn’t be so damn unusual. If you’re a cultural critic, you have one job: to range as widely and deeply as possible through human culture and send back reports of your remarkable discoveries. Perloff is praising the window frame when she should be admiring the view. And her blurb implies she doesn’t look out very many windows.