Wednesday, July 01, 2009

There Are Really Only Two Types of Poetry


At least, that's what I keep hearing. Over and over.

And with all of the new reviews of American Hybrid, edited by Cole Swenson and David St. John, we can only expect to hear about these types of poetry more and more.

The first review I read was by Ron Silliman. Then I read Andrew Wessels' reaction to Silliman's review. Then I read the Rain Taxi review by Johannes Göransson. There may have been one or two more short reviews on blogs I've scanned recently as well.

What strikes me most about the reviews is how each seems to take most issue with the idea that there are only two camps and a poet has to be from one or the other. That an editor or editorial team can absolutely decidedly affix a label on a single poet based on the handful of poems from that poet's ouevre that fit their editorial slant. Want to call so-and-so a lyric poet? Sure, go ahead. Just don't include any of the narrative or political works that he/she may have written over the years.

Göransson mentions in his review the portion of Swenson's introduction that references Robert Lowell's quote that there is "cooked" and "uncooked" poetry. And on the same day I read that review, I was reading an interview with Peter Gizzi in issue #14 of jubilat, in which he says: "When I was a teenager, I began with the Beats, Rimbaud, Homer, Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Whitman, but I never read just one stream. To me the tradition is much larger than just the recent postwar 'raw and the cooked,' as Lowell broke it down. I didn't want to think of it in those terms."

And through all of the "flarf vs. conceptual", "lyric vs. narrative", "School of Quietude vs. everyone else" I must honestly say I could not care less about these types of labels. When I sit down to read a poem, I will like it or not based on any number of factors, but NOT based on what "school of thought" the poet is considered to be in. Like Gizzi, I don't want to think about poetry in those terms.

And I am getting very weary of all the fighting between groups who think their camp is better than everyone else's camp, or more authentic, or more accessible, or more valuable because it is not accessible, etc. ad nauseum.

Really, it's all beginning to sound like a bunch of Sneetches on the beaches bellyaching about who has stars upon thars.

And the editors generating all the hubbub stirring up clashes between camps are merely the Sylvester McMonkey McBeans trying to capitalize on the desires of these camps to be seen as the best on the poetry beaches.


giulia said...

This is why I "dropped out" of keeping track of the yapping, arguing, lobbying for one "side" or the other (for most part).

For all the poetry books, periodicals, reviews I receive, most of it goes unread (other than the poems). I was more aware of it all when I attended events, worked for a local MFA program, but also thought, oh bah (to self).

Now that I'm gearing up to -- maybe -- dive in again, I don't know after reading this if I have the self-restraint to keep the 'bah' to myself. Hmmmm. Something to consider over the summer. So thanks for the reminder (really).

When I arrived in DC via France (via Pgh) in the late 70s, it was the same cocktail-poe-biz chatter here as in UK, France, etc. Blah. I could not be more bored with these people...

BTW, painter friends went/go thru same nonsense. It's poisonous to anyone who creates anything.

Good weekend & holiday to you & you family, B.

Karen J. Weyant said...

Great post! To tell you a secret (well, it's not a secret now), I don't even understand most of the "camps" of poetry!

knott said...

A quote from Holderlin:

"There is only one real quarrel in the world: which is more important, the whole or the individual part."

Poetry, or the poem?

Process, or product?

In practice, poets do seem to make a choice between the two—I'm hardly the first to note this . . .

I'm sorry, but I don't think this "one real quarrel" can be ended or resolved by proclamation—

Of course you can always assert that your "American [sic] Hybrid" has transcended this argument,

and sell your illusory empty amalgam,

market your scam . . . but?

Bernadette Geyer said...

re: "I'm sorry, but I don't think this "one real quarrel" can be ended or resolved by proclamation—"

I agree... I just choose to ignore the labels and read what I want and decide afterwards whether I like it or not.