Poet and novelist Kenneth Fearing (1902–1961) enjoyed a gratifying moment in the spotlight earlier today—and, appropriately enough, it happened on the radio, when WNYC’s The Fishko Files devoted a segment to Fearing in honor of National Poetry Month.The Big Clock (1946). On hand for commentary are film scholar Jeanine Basinger; Robert Polito, editor of the Library of America volume Kenneth Fearing: Selected Poems; and former Library of America editor-in-chief Geoffrey O’Brien.
In 1930s poems like “Dear Beatrice Fairfax:” and “Cracked Record Blues,” Fearing displayed a prescient attentiveness to the emerging language of mass culture—as it was transmitted, for instance, through tabloids, jukeboxes, and advertising. Tracing a line between the poetry and The Big Clock‘s atmosphere of “frantic paranoia and corporate domination,” Fishko concludes that Fearing’s “media fixation” is only too relevant to present-day concerns.
“Kenneth Fearing was looking at media manipulation and advertising and obsessively pointing to it and saying, Look what’s happening to us. Now, we get his message.”