Twilight for Stewart’s Poetry?

Commentators have been queuing up to criticise Kristen Stewart like portly barbecue guests jostling for the last scraps of meat on the bones of the hog roast. The whey-faced Twilight actress, previously best-known for dating Robert Pattinson and having all the expressive range of a fridge-freezer, is being panned for her poem, ‘My Heart is a Wiffle Ball’.

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde jokes that the poem reads ‘like a middle-class fridge door.’ Gawker’s Lacy Donohue called it ‘shitty, embarrassing poetry.’ So far, so gruesome. Anyway, this just in – K-Stew’s penned another few lines, exclusively for the Oxford Student. Here they are:

As silent as a mirror is believed
Realities plunge in silence by . . .

I am not ready for repentance;
Nor to match regrets. For the moth
Bends no more than the still
Imploring flame. And tremorous
In the white falling flakes
Kisses are,–
The only worth all granting.

Ugh! Just like the first one. What a bunch of self-indulgent crap. This is almost as bad as when she used the word ‘kismetly’, which isn’t even a word! These lines don’t even make sense. I mean, how can a flame be ‘imploring’? Embarrassing for everyone. Right?

Right. Except for one little porky pie. The extract above is actually from ‘Legend’, a poem by Harold Hart Crane, one of the most important English-language poets of the last hundred years. Now his reputation shouldn’t have any influence on your reading of the poem – if you think it’s crap, you think it’s crap. But there are good reasons for thinking Hart Crane’s poetry is good, just like there are good reasons for thinking Stewart’s isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be.

Brian Kim Stefans, a poet and professor at UCLA explains better than I can why ‘My Heart is a Wiffle Ball’ isn’t exactly a skidmark on the lacy slip of the Western canon. Highlighting the delicacy of the second stanza and how the odd syntax adds energy to a poem notable for its deft manipulation of perspective, Stefans feels that ‘He’s speaking in tongues all along the pan handle’ is ‘very evocative.’

You might not agree with Stefans. But he should be applauded for refusing to be swept up in the tide of vitriol crashing against Stewart and her poetry. She’s an easy target because she’s privileged and vacant-looking, which is an unfortunate combination, but irrelevant to her poetry. And it seems pretty mean-spirited to watch her bare her soul and then roundly mock her. Let’s cut Kristen some slack.

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