Most poets today are magnificently oppressed, lashing out fearlessly against the "mainstream," which consists of everyone except the poet in question. Their biographies make them seem to jockey for the best of both worlds: Gerald Locklin (1941-), for example, is "an outlaw, underground poet, and college professor who has published more than 100 books of poetry and prose." How underground can he be?
Indeed, marginalization is hard to sustain in a milieu of instant absorption. Everyone is or would like to be outside the system: "Throughout his career, Bill Knott (1940-) has maintained outsider status in American poetry. This is largely due to the fact that no literary camp can adequately house ... his body of work." Michael Burkard's writing "does not fit comfortably within either of these categories [i.e., confessional and Deep Image poetry]." And Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's works "defy easy categorization." The assumption is that the rest of the poets are easily categorized — far from true, especially if one asks them.
Most of the hyperbole of our time concerns not so much craft or language as identity, an issue seldom invoked in poetry discussions before the 20th century. For Miguel Algarín, "to be a Nuyorican ... is to negotiate a hybrid identity." Jessica Hagedorn "writes from a postcolonial, diasporic aesthetic." "Chrystos is a Menominee poet whose commitment to both North American and queer identities has produced a distinctive and compelling body of poetry." "Minnie Bruce Pratt's identity as a Southern queer poet is at the forefront of her works and their significance. She speaks the often unspeakable." "Outspoken, politicized, and prolific, Eileen Myles ... offers an energetic, anarchic, and inventive lesbian voice that has helped free many gay women writers to gain access to details of their lives." Naomi Shihab Nye's poems reflect "both her ethnicity and ethnicity in general" and "are windows into other worlds that invite empathy and healing comparisons."
There are far fewer language-related assessments among the many encyclopedia entries, though there are some. Lyn Hejinian's texts "focus on the discursive construction of knowledge and subjectivity." But even here, modes of discourse are seen as inextricable from questions of identity. Thus, Carla Harryman's work "is concerned specifically with challenging and undermining hierarchies of gender and genre."In short, where everyone yesterday seemed dispensable, today no one is.
OUCH! (Full article here.)