Saturday, December 31, 2022

Quote of the Day (Jonathan Galassi, With a Poetic Plea for ‘Some New Year’s Sense’)

“The tree is down, the star is stored,
the groaning at the groaning board
is over: no more rancid nog
or smoky, still-green Yule log.
Out, false cheer and de trop expense!
It’s time we showed some New Year’s sense.
Last year’s booty’s shook its shake,
so sniff the air, take a break—
at least until the bills arrive.”—American editor, poet and novelist Jonathan Galassi, “Greetings, Friends!,” The New York Review of Books, Feb. 5, 2015
Longtime readers of The New Yorker will notice that the rhyme scheme, the antic tone, and even the title of this poem is a tip of the hat (or, for the more cynical among us, a slavish imitation) of a popular holiday tradition at the magazine dating back to 1935, maintained (with only a 13-year gap) by writers Frank Sullivan, Roger Angell and Ian Frazier.
(In fact, it was during this gap that this particular poem was published in that other publication for what passes for the American intelligentsia, The New York Review of Books—perhaps a nudge to The New Yorker’s editors and writers to revive the tradition.)
Nevertheless, when I came across this by chance yesterday, I was struck, seven years after it appeared, by what a time capsule this represented. Jonathan Galassi mourned the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nadine Gordimer, Mike Nichols, and Joan Rivers. 

His speculation about what might happen in the Presidential campaign nearly two years away (about Hillary, “Jeb the Stealthy,” and the “the toxic three/new tenors of the GOP:/Chris, Rand, and Marco”) can only make you shake your head about the black-swan event of November 2016.
And yet, so much of this poem still doesn’t date. Bill Cosby is threatening to make a comeback, and “Netanyahu, what a cad” already has.
Above all, Galassi's review of the prior year will bring a shock of recognition for those who’ve lived through 2022 (“Friends, last year was just the pits,/a conga line of slurs and snits”). And, though we will inevitably hope for moments of grace ahead, I believe his last rhyming couplet has more than a little truth to it, too:
Keep trying, friends, ’cause never fear,
it’s going to be a trying year.”

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