I'm not refuting Bloom here, so much as indicating his obvious & admitted deviations from the line of poets (the 19th Century ones at least) foregrounded in his work. The spirit of that work, it seems to me, isn't revisionist but, as he himself renames it, "antithetical": almost a full turn from the revisioning—the actual return to vision—that has marked our poetry from Blake until the present. I've found Bloom useful in clarifying some of this, & I'm in sympathy with some larger part of what he attends to: Romanticism, kabbala, gnosticism, & so on. At the same time I'm distressed by the reductiveness of his work, by his unwillingness to revise or revision a narrowly conservative idea of tradition & "priority." There is, in other words, no questioning of "tradition" at its roots, but a reductive assertion "that everyone who now reads and writes in the West, of whatever racial background, sex or ideological camp, is still a son or daughter of Homer." No Coyotes or Taras appear in his mythologies, no Milarepas or Li Po's among his canonized poets. Kabbala & gnosticism gain entry as maps for criticism but otherwise his "canon" is still European & his specialization post-Enlightenment & English. So it remains only those poets devoted to the idea of the prolific, exuberant, & flamboyant who have made the move to let the greater world into our work.
JR's comparison with Mengele at the beginning of the essay is extreme, but I have to agree with his point in what I've quoted here. Gnosticism did not bring him closer to Rothenberg or Duncan or Ginsberg. So close, and yet so far.
Also, this passage:
If Bloom is the Devourer—the diluter of energy, the reductive agent—"revisionism" is no longer the poet's (prolific) re-visioning but an attempt to turn the unqualified "freedom" of the Romantics & their successors into a qualified & "repressed freedom": itself a product of anxiety. The Devourer, then, swallows the Prolific's "excess of delights" but seems to choke on them; or, as Devourer-turned-teacher, he laments: "How is he [am I] to teach a tradition now grown so wealthy and so heavy that to accommodate it demands more strength than any single consciousness can provide?" Unlike the Prolific—the producer—who revels in his own & others'—excesses, the teacher /Devourer/ critic is driven to despair & to canon-formation to relieve the stress.
A nice way of turning Bloom's Freudianism against him. Bloom as repressor of romantic energies, anxiously attempting to confine them to a narrower canon. The irony that the greatest critic of Romantic poetry in the US should be hostile or indifferent to the romanticism of Duncan or Ginsberg.
The "narcissism of small differences" is something I worry a lot about too. How some of my most energetic objections are to things very close to me (in theory) but that I cannot recognize as legitimate.