Poetry and Project Runway, by Stephen Burt

If you follow contemporary poetry but you haven’t been following Project Runway, the popular cable TV show now in its sixth season, you might be surprised to hear that the show holds lessons for poetry critics. To learn them, you first have to know how the TV show works: aspiring fashion designers compete for a chance to show their work in New York’s Bryant Park alongside couture’s big names, among other prizes. Each week contestants design clothes to meet a challenge: successful designers and guest judges rate the results. The lowest scoring contestant gets eliminated. The highest scorer usually gets immunity (he or she can’t be knocked out next week) along with kudos from the viewers and from Tim Gunn, the dapper adviser. In one recent challenge, contestants made dresses, tops, jackets or skirts out of newspaper. The winner, Irina Shabayeva, came up with a coat whose thick cuffs looked like curly meringue; one runner-up, Christopher Straub of Shakopee, Minnesota, made an ankle-length skirt like the tail of a tropical bird.

via Poetry and Project Runway by Stephen Burt.

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