Thursday, August 21, 2008


Over here Allen Taylor takes me to task for writing against LangPo, performance-obsessed Spoken Word, and experiments for experiments' sakes. He rightly clocks me for taking an intellectual shortcut. Mea culpa, canis. The problem, however, with picking out examples is that I can be accused of cherry-picking. To that end, viddy the above link. It's the glory-hole of avant-garde "poetry" -- some of it is quite good as art/propago. Some of it is crap. Very little of it is poetry.

At any rate, I view this blog as one half of a debate. A debate that attempts to define poetry, resartus-style. I am, then, refuting the line of poetry that extends from Whitman/Dickinson down to Hejinian/Silliman today*. If the other side would like to show up, the comment box is open.

The side I'm defending has Poe and Tennyson and Plath. All have been shredded or relegated by the academy. The reputations of Poe and Tennyson still haven't recovered from the early 20th century. Plath is pooh-poohed as a sad little woman who wrote some good poems and a good book before she offed herself. I think the Academy does this because, if an eager young fan of poetry shows up at a college, the poet will be a fan of one of these three poets (if not all three [it took me until after my BA to discover Tennyson]).

The problem for the Academy with that is, if you're a lover of The Raven and Blackberrying and Annabel Lee and Daddy, you look at this and go "what the hell?" And if too many sincere poets (who will become alumni and critics and teachers and professors) ask "what the hell?" the Academics will get booted out on their asses.

So the Academics disparage real poetry and put in its place a false god -- experimental poetry.

The problem being, of course, that experimental poetry is so far from real poetry that, contrary to Mr. Taylor's assertion, poetry's tent really isn't big enough for both camps. My earliest solution was one of semantics: divide the world at the point of aurality. Work that exists independent of the page is poetry, work dependent upon the page is propago. Not too shabby for a first effort but the neologism/redefinition doesn't seem to be catching on.

I could propose, Mencius-like, that both schools quit the use of the word poetry until a proper poetry can be determined, but that doesn't make much economic sense (think, where would one shelve works? under Verse and Line-breaks? Goodness, who knows?) and anyway, producers of propago would have to agree with me and give up their grip on the word poetry and why on earth would they do that?

So here I sit. Writing both instructions for writing and distributing real poetry while at the same time both defining what real poetry is and what real poetry isn't. Because a recipe without ingredients is just a list.


*and there's no way that I'm saying there haven't been good poets who wrote real poetry out of this school -- but the school is so broken that it no longer educates -- it only indoctrinates.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why I am a Skeptic

So someone with whom I generally disagree (and who is a big fan of 2d art and the avant garde) gave me an excellent explanation of why I heartily dislike all things trendy, flashy, and "experimental" in poetry. She says:

"Further, intellectuals have always been skeptical; that's what they do. Bertrand Russell, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Margaret Mead, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thorough, Walt Whitman, Charles Olsen [sic], Gary any intellectual who accomplished anything and see if he or she was not skeptical of previous work in his or her field."

Too right.
Post Modernism and the Avant Garde (good band name, btw) is the previous work in my field. Ergo, I am skeptical of it.

The work, of course, is finding out what the new work in my field will be.

Narrative long-form poetry anyone?