Next month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada (Roof Books, 1997). Few books in American poetry over the past two decades have received more sustained and varied critical commentary than Doubled Flowering. Notably, in the last couple of years, after a long period of mostly reasonable, scholarly consideration of the controversial work, there has been a flurry of journalistic, indignant pieces. Published in venues from the New Yorker and PBS to Jezebel and Buzzfeed, they condemn the work’s morals and motives. Nearly all of these commentaries – apparently at least partly inspired by the ad hominem fantasies Charles Bernstein advanced in his anxiety-ridden essay on the work in the Attack of the Difficult Poems – are superficial and misguided in their arguments, most of them simplemindedly linking Yasusada to an incident that could not have been more distant in ethics, inspiration, or intent: the Yi-Fen Chou/Best American Poetry fiasco, of September, 2015. Dispatches thought it would be timely to share, in spirit of antidote to these naïve and accusatory polemics, one recent example of a more nuanced reflection on the challenges and paradoxes inhering in the Yasusada writings:
“Reconstruction and Verisimilitude after the Event: A Poet and a City,” by Kim Roberts, Chapter 1 of The Event, the Subject, and the Artwork: Into the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (2016), pp. 12-30.