Monday, January 26, 2009

The next Objectivists

I've received a message containing the following, which I hope it's ok to post here (and about which I have no comment):

"The Next Objectivists are fed up with the dominant practices of lyric poetry in today's neoliberal America. We are sick of the lyrical rat race, the scramble to print, the continued consignment of one voice per author (especially by writers who purport to know better), the cynical rationality of the marketplace as it grasps in desperate new ways at our art and craft. In the face of these problems, we dedicate ourselves to a collective study of poetic techniques. We read together and write together in an environment focused on poems, not egos.

We are dedicated to Jackson Mac Low's understanding of poetry as "a situation wherein she or he invites other persons & the world in general to be co-creators. The poet does not wish to be a dictator but a loyal co-initiator of action within the free society of equals which it is hoped the work will help to bring about."

In this environment, we preach & teach poetry that happens outside the myself. We hold that objectivism is one name for a set of interrelated effects produced by modern and contemporary poets who use their verse to explore the world of the imagination beyond the I-self. "If there is an ocean it is here," William Carlos Williams wrote. We mean to explore this outside world by observation and practice.

We come together as an independent, autonomous school outside of and in opposition to the predominant discourses around poetry and the use of publication as a form of self-promotion. As intellectuals, we heed Gertrude Stein's observation that "Even those who are just ordinary know what the human mind is"; as historians of the lyric, we take Wyatt's warning to heart: "Stand, whoso list, upon the slipper wheel / Of high estate . . ."

If you agree with our ideas about poetry, please join us! We do not want to join your club, but you are welcome to join ours. If you wish to join the next objectivists e-mail list in order to get regular announcements about our workshop, please notify Matthias Regan at (or"

Pictured: The last Objectivists; see Peter O'Leary's essay on them here.


Lemon Hound said...

Ah, very intriguing. A non-club, club, but I can always get behind a movement that isn't about individual careerism...lyrical rat race, though. Those are fighting words.

I remember O'Leary's essay which I read a while back. Very informative, well thought out and researched.

But isn't it time for some fresh air in the poetry world? It kind of break's my heart the lack of vision and leadership we are showing.

So much fighting over small crumbs and so little actual seeing.

Don Share said...

It really is time, Lemon - I agree. That's why I keep challenging poets to "Make It New, Already." !!

Brooklyn said...

It's a very exciting message, but what does it all mean??? I'd have to see some examples of work to understand- these basic principals really only seem to be about attitudes in poetry, not the poetry, itself... is it Google-able, yet?

Anonymous said...

This does sound promising.

But will the New Objectivists, I wonder, as they explore poetry "beyond the myself," blithely employ--as is the Law with "dominant practices of lyric [and avant-garde poetry] poetry"-- the standard model of "Myself the Author" attribution?


J.H. Stotts said...

as if it were the rat race that was lyrical. rat races are, by definition, experimental--and a little cruel!

Anonymous said...

Hell, another meme: "neoliberal"!!

Lemon Hound said...

Yes, anonymous. I believe these are the same folks that did the neoliberal poetry pamphlet.

Manifestos are all well and good, but fill a room with people who are there to hear poetry, that's exciting. My students--and I know that's apparently an unpopular subject, and no, I'm not a Dr.--but yes, my students excited about poetry and wanting to read more, and write more, and hear more, and memorize poems...that is more important, more relevant than a pamphlet.

Make poetry happen.

Really, on some level, quit talking about it and make poetry happen.

Did the objectivists manage that?

Anonymous said...

The whole meme meme is very handy, and I do all my meme verification at Wikipedia, of course; about "neoliberal" it says, helpfully:

The label is used pejoratively by numerous critics and opponents, and according to one study, "the concept itself has become an imprecise exhortation in much of the literature, often describing any tendency deemed to be undesirable".

Strangely, the original (for lack of a better word) Objectivists were never a real group or workshop, and many who came under that artificial rubric came to regret and despise it, including Zuk and Bunting. Which is consistent with what Lemon is implying about ways of making things happen. Why folks need the millstones and albatrosses of a moniker to weigh them down is... mysterious!

A.N. Other Anonymous

Anonymous said...

As one of the founders of the Next Objectivists I can clarify a few things.

But first: thanks for reposting my initial call to arms! If anyone is interested in keeping informed on the situation, send an e-mail to & I'll add you to the list. If anyone here lives in Chicago, come check out our workshop.

As I hear many people saying in their comments, the real energy happens on the ground. I totally agree. We will be meeting every other Thursday at the Mess Hall in Rogers Park, reading and writing and discussing together. This message only intends to draw like-minded people to those events.

The work we will do there will not be attached to any particular participant's name. I am entirely sincere in what I have to say about the problem of individualized poetry practices today--the problem of what I'm calling neoliberal poetry--and this is an effort to address those problems.

That does not mean anyone pretends to forsake their own identities or otherwise attempt to produce a lot of unnecessary drama about the situation. But we're trying not to let our realism get in the way of our optimism. If you are going to actually commit to the practice, you need to call yourselves something. I chose objectivist because as a poet and teacher of poetry I identify strongly with the tradition of practice that emerged most clearly in the work of the American modernists--Williams, Pound, Moore, Stein, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, etc, etc. But I don't fetishize this group of writers, I'm interested in all kinds of writing that seeks to objectify itself in various ways. Jackson Mac Low is another example, but also Oulipian writing, a lot of the less egotistical Black Mountain & Black Arts poetry, a lot of S.F. Renaissance and New York School poetry. For that matter, the outsidereal, to use Dorn's term for the same thing phenomenon, that emerges in any poetic practice.

--An objectivist

Anonymous said...

As somebody else involved in this group, I can give a follow up comment a few months in -- we do a hell of a lot of reading, and talking about reading, and suggesting things to read. We sometimes do writing practices pulled from the readings and work on them as a group. Its a chance to look at things outside confines of a classroom or the frame of "listen to my own fabulous poetry." Its invigorating. You should come.