My Silver Planet (borrowing its title from John Keats) contends that the insoluble problem of elite poetry’s relation to popular culture bears the indelible stamp of its turbulent incorporation of vernacular poetry—a legacy shaped by nostalgia, contempt, and fraudulence. Daniel Tiffany reactivates and fundamentally redefines the concept of kitsch, freeing it from modernist misapprehension and ridicule. He excavates the forgotten history of poetry’s relation to kitsch, beginning with the exuberant revival of archaic (and often spurious) ballads in Britain in the early eighteenth century.
Tiffany argues that the ballad revival—the earliest formation of what we now call popular culture—sparked a dubious but seemingly irresistible flirtation with poetic forgery that endures today in the ambiguity of the kitsch artifact: is it real or fake, art or kitsch? He goes on to trace the genealogy of kitsch in texts ranging from nursery rhymes and poetic melodrama to the lyric commodities of Baudelaire. He scrutinizes the Fascist “paradise” inscribed in Ezra Pound’s Cantos, as well as the poetry of the New York School and its debt to pop and “plastic” art. By exposing and elaborating the historical poetics of kitsch, My Silver Planet transforms our sense of kitsch as a category of material culture.