5.04.2009

Ange Mlinko at Mayday
http://maydaymagazine.com/issue1roundtableangemlinko.php

To begin, I’d like to list some qualities (requirements?) of contemporary poetry:

- Very interesting language, an extremely personal style
- A great emphasis on connotation, texture (as opposed to direct statement)
- Extreme intensity, forced emotion, violence
- A good deal of obscurity
- Emphasis on sensation, perceptual nuances
- Emphasis on details, on the part rather than the whole
- A tendency toward external formlessness and internal disorganization
- All tendencies are forced to their limits
- Emphasis on the unconscious, dream structure, the thoroughly subjective
- Attitudes anti-scientific, anti-common-sense, anti-public
- Not a logical, but an associational structure

Do you see your poetry, and the poetry you admire, in this list of characteristics? I do. I mean, I see a description of my poems and the poems by living poets I most admire. And yet this list is entirely cribbed from Randall Jarrell’s “A Note on Poetry,” written at the behest of James Laughlin and published in one of the New Directions “Five Young American Poets” anthologies—in 1940.

“A Note on Poetry” is fresh as a daisy, though whether that’s a compliment to Jarrell or a diss on us is open to debate. It made a splash at the time because it seemed nobody had understood Modernist poetry as an extension of Romanticism until then. We are still Romantics. Poetry is the repository of every vestigial romantic and spiritual longing, everything para- and hyper- and super-. And yet most of us don’t subscribe to Christianity, the Kabbalah, theosophy; most of us aren’t really mystics, except when we believe that our private languages will become magically transparent to the right reader. Yes, we write in poetry dialect.


OK, so this is Jarrell, as the most boring poet-critic ever, and brought back again but not by Stephen Burt. Oh, my. He is not non-academic! He invented the current role.

OK. About Jarrell's list:

To begin, I’d like to list some qualities (requirements?) of contemporary poetry:

- Very interesting language, an extremely personal style

There are enough educated, critically acute poets who have continually questioned what "interesting language" and "personal style" might mean. I think, of the two phrases, it is "personal style" that remains most problematic; how does it relate to the newer old saw, "unique voice" which is "general, yet universal" "personal and colloquial, yet vatic"? And I might say that this latter phrase is one that the post war generation of academic poet critics gave us, with its focus on voice. What could it possibly mean, post baby boom, to *not* strive for a unique voice, a voice, a personal style, an identifiable style, a "brand" (even as an artist)? Also, that "academic" really means "establishment, as the establishment and academia is related, the establishment establishment being more established than in loco parentis academia, which represents the establishment."

- A great emphasis on connotation, texture (as opposed to direct statement)

I would say that there is a lot of direct statement, and a lot of direct statement in clotted language, now. Why? Because readers are different, and because Stevens, the langpos, and other poets have had a profound influence.

- Extreme intensity, forced emotion, violence

Only where catharsis is preferred; I think that it is, but where / how it is expected to be found changes....

- A good deal of obscurity
- Emphasis on sensation, perceptual nuances

- Emphasis on details, on the part rather than the whole

I don't agree with this at all, because Olson's and others' emphasis on process and project -- and even Iowa grads -- and other emph. on source and, yes, brand -- ok, this is a shorthand note, but I spend a lot of my efforts here. I do not see much of this "trees for the forest."

- A tendency toward external formlessness and internal disorganization
- All tendencies are forced to their limits
- Emphasis on the unconscious, dream structure, the thoroughly subjective
- Attitudes anti-scientific, anti-common-sense, anti-public
- Not a logical, but an associational structure

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