27 abr. 2005

It's not really about a division between "avant-garde" and "school of quietude." This very division implies that, say, Billy Collins is a very good poet within the quietudinous mode, something that is very far from being demonstrated. He is surely a lightweight by any measure. When Bill Knott says, with his characteristic savage facetiousness: "they don't put us in their anthologies, why should we put them in ours"-- this begs the question by imagining two symmetrical worlds of poetry, each with a right to exclude the "riffraff." The school of quietude is not a school with definable borders, but simply a boring attitude toward poetry. Let's keep poetry safe for boring poets! seems to be the watchword.

Really the conversation is so poor that we have a reviewer in BOOKSLUT talking about the Prose Poem as a new and controversial genre, as though Tony Tost had found this obscure and little known form in which to work!

It's not really about accessibility or difficulty either. It is abject mauvaise foi to hold up Rae Armantrout as a representative of difficult poetry when she is one of the easiest poets out there. Let's talk instead about whether she is interesting or not.

"Beginners
are being taught to think,

drawing straight lines
between dots
to reveal hidden shapes"

Sometimes Armantrout seems to be telling me something I already know. This seems to be a facile critique of a certain kind of "thinking," reduced to a childhood exercise in connect-the-dots. When I look closely, though, it is not so clear. After all, that exercise might not be as simplistic as it seemed, and connecting the dots can be a powerful metaphor. Where the point seems most accesssible and blatant, I become unsure of my response. Is her poetry TOO accessible at times? That would be a much more fruitful conversation to have.

2 comentarios:

Chris L dijo...

Or is your bias towards or against someone based on the 'tradition' and 'context' you see them writing from making you more disposed to see complexity where you would like it to be?

If you saw this metaphor (or these exact lines) by some random poet of the SOQ you would probably dismiss them out of hand without even thinking about it closely at all.

And what does it mean to be too accessible? I can just hear the puzzled poet now: "Oh damn! That reader *got* it! And so easily! I must strive to be less accessible." :)

Jonathan dijo...

Jonathan wrote:

Excellent comment, Chris.

Sure, don't you cringe when the poet tells you something you already know in too obvious a way? Like I try to explain in my Paul Auster post above: a poet cannot telegraph her punches too blatantly. Armantrout does that occasionally, the way Auster might bring in the holocaust for added emphasis, in case we didn't "get it." Poetry communicates meaning indirectly most of the time. A too explicit development of a them may well be cringe-worthy.