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Thread: Trying to get acquainted with contemporary poetry

  1. #16
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    I think George Santayana said that poets or artists need to be in a sense narrow minded. I can't recall what exactly he said, but I came away with the impression that he was arguing that good art requires a fanatical theory of what's important to it. (Don't quote me on that.) Maybe I'll reread it and post again.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loganm View Post
    Heaney is washed up second rate. Look up James Merrill. He progressed poetry through the 60s, 70s, 80s. Look up Henri Cole, he's progressing poetry now. Adrienne Rich was born in 1929 and is still alive. She writes some good poetry. I read The Forge the other day and thought it was exactly what you're objecting against. It did have that one really good phrase though toward the last few lines, don't remember it. Never heard of Muldoon.


    broadening my scope of contemporary poetry I have begun to revise the opinions I previously expressed here. Heaney still stands as a great poet, and the likes of Thomas Kinsella and John F. Deane, a poet whom I believe is quite unknown despite the merits of the poems I've read, have forced me to reconsider. But I am still awaiting the first flush of a new group of poets all the same. Where are the gadding and cheeky chicks of those aged eagles?
    Poetry has come a long way. I don't believe The Forge embodies those old objections in the slightest, though it undoubtedly exemplifies them by the contrast evident to the Blacksmith in the poem. He discerns the difference between then and now, but gets on with his business nonetheless.
    I would think that your hostility towards Heaney would merely demonstrate that no great poet, of any age, is without his detractors.
    Last edited by The Ol' Man; 12-29-2011 at 02:50 PM.
    What is now proved was only once imagined. Blake

  3. #18
    smug & self-satisfied Atomic's Avatar
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    Does anyone else find the prose of Kazuo Ishiguro to be juvenile, weak in tone and dull in texture? I can't read his works. I will not read his works!

  4. #19
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    This subject makes me want to write about so many issues, but I will try to remain on topic.

    I, too, have had and am having trouble with figuring out just what is up with poetry. My interest in this certain kind of poetry, which is a little off the beaten trail, began with the anthology "American Hybrid" (ed. Swensen & St. John). The anthology has been been deemed a failure based on the objectives outlined by the editors in the introduction, and the expectations of readers who knew about the project prior to its release; nevertheless, it is a pretty important anthology in my opinion, because it is introducing the writing of many poets to readers who would have otherwise been unacquainted with this kind of poetics. The anthology is based on the idea that there are poets working in a field in which extremely avant-garde and more traditional practices are merged. Perhaps this explains the exclusion of poets like Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman, who are both Language Poets (a group represented by other writers in the anthology, i.e. Armantrout, Hejinian, Palmer, and perhaps Guest) that have strayed farthest and remain somewhat divorced from the influence of the traditional lyric. (Although, Bernstein has one of the most prestigious academic positions among the Language Poets and Silliman is a bit of an internet blogosphere celebrity, so maybe it was just about the money).

    I believe you are right that the beginnings of Language Poetry, or Language Poetry in its most pure form may come off as "a device for philosophical reflection, [having] no aesthetic content of its own". But I see these philosophies not as agents of unification, but rather similar starting points which extrapolate in endless directions. Right now, I am trying to read "Wittgenstein's Ladder" by Marjorie Perloff and "The Language of Inquiry" by Lyn Hejinian to more easily understand the motivations of these writers. I would say, that from what I've read thus far, reading Perloff's book of essays requires a fairly good knowledge of Wittgenstein's works to begin with, and Hejinian prose can be quite confusing because it is so "poetic".

    There is also a group of writers known as "elliptical poets", named by the critic Stephen Burt in a 1998 essay. C.D. Wright is the only solid example I've come across, but I assume her husband, Forest Gander may be included as well (how rude of me). On Wikipedia (forgive my amazing sources), Burt is quoted: ""Elliptical poets try to manifest a person-who speaks the poem and reflects the poet-while using all the verbal gizmos developed over the last few decades to undermine the coherence of speaking selves. They are post-avant-gardist, or post-'postmodern': they have read (most of them) Stein's heirs, and the 'language writers,' and have chosen to do otherwise." Apparently, Dickinson, Berryman, Ashbery and Auden all somehow show aspects of this style--perhaps it is a very conscious use of language (in the vein of Language poets, who are very conscious of the "language") but without the skepticism towards the "self", or rejection of the "lyric I".

    The third type is called "The New Sincerity" and it is the most recently coined and most confusing to me.

    Honestly, I try to read about the theory and criticism because it interests me, but I find a remarkable amount of freedom in the Language Poets admonishment against the falsehood of "closure". Reading the pieces without regarding the traditional elements (rhythm, rhyme, structure, images, argument, and a poignancy*) is very liberating. I think we are taught in school, even at university, to approach texts with a checklist to cross off--which does not promote sophisticated or original thought, in my opinion. Helpful in the beginning, and especially for more "canonical" texts? Of course! But most academics are uninterested at this time in the poetry of today--instead, the mantle is being held by poets themselves, poet-academics. The techniques that we use to talk about these kind of poems is still being constructed and is not as widely disseminated as the more traditional techniques.

    I could say more, but will leave it alone for now. I invite you to message me (and extend this offer to anyone else) if you would enjoy more in-depth discussion.

  5. #20
    Registered User Darcy88's Avatar
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    I browse used book shops. I go in intending to buy only one or a few books and while I'm there I sample a whole host. Same at the library. Anthologies are quite useful. Literature can feel so overwhelming, especially poetry. So many great names and great works and so little time. Anthologies are great. They're how I've gained an okay grip on poetry, though contemporary poetry is still something of a gaping hole in my knowledge of literature. Read what works for you. Sometimes I spend a week reading nothing but one poet, be that poet millenia, centuries or months old in terms of publishing/printing.

    Long story short - anthologies.

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