Tuesday, November 24, 2009

To be or not to be... a modernist?




The big debate in Am Po at the moment is...  whether Edwin Arlington Robinson is a modernist or not??

10 comments:

Paul said...

Well that is sad. Nothing else to talk about?

Jordan said...

Strictly for entertainment purposes only. No wagering.

Kent Johnson said...

Careful what you say about it: According to Ron yesterday, anyone dumb enough to propose that Modernism's origins just might be a bit thicker than the March 1913 issue of Poetry magazine might as well be taking their cues from the Fox News Channel.

Then he sternly said that anyone proposing such notions would have gotten "laughed off the campus in the 60s."

Check it out. He really did!

Don Share said...

He deleted an innocuous comment I left wondering whether Pound's Personae and EAR's personifications had any connection or relation.

Anyway, here's another bit from the Donaldson bio:

"The [new poetry, e.g., in POETRY ca. 1912-13] was all to the good, even if free verse was not to Robinson's taste. 'I write badly enough as it is,' he said. Before Pound and Lowell and others, he had already achieved a revolution of his own against the genteel tradition. Staying within the boundaries of rhyme and meter, he depicted to lives of men and women in a spare and nearly colloquial diction." Your mileage may vary. (The worst thing Pound had to say - and this is very mild for EP - was that EAR was "old style.")

More to the point, as Paul says... it's sad. I wonder whence the tic, to paraphrase EP, for destroying past glories?

Jordan said...

Ron is taking the challenge seriously, though. The Kilmer/Robinson interview posted today doesn't do any favors for the Robinson-as-modernist team. Except when you recall that *Eliot* is mainly insufficiently modernist for some people, especially circa Four Quartets; I haven't run the numbers but my estimate is the K/R interview takes place at what would likely be a stage in Robinson's development analogous to Eliot's Four Quartet stage.

Some poets recoil from the work of their youth; some go further and recoil from youth itself. There has to be a third way between revanchism and absolute independence...

Don Share said...

I don't think there's a third way, or any way. The idea, and I can't believe we're taking it seriously, is that there's an "anti-modernist" under every bed. In vaudeville, they say that if you buy the premise, you buy the bit. If you have to pigeonhole poets (but why???), and invent phony schools and kinds of poetry, then you have to call somebody a name. I don't see why people can't read EAR and, say, Vito Acconci with equal loving care and curiosity. It's all tar and feathers.

Kent Johnson said...

>He deleted an innocuous comment I left wondering whether Pound's Personae and EAR's personifications had any connection or relation.

Wow, well if that is the case, then I guesss Jordan is right-- He IS taking the challenge seriously!

(I'd left my own innocuous comment there, saying that in the 80s, when *I* was in college, that we all thought literary Modernism sort of started with Baudelaire and Flaubert, if not earlier, across the channel. I think the comment is still up, I'll go look!)

Jordan said...

> or any way

Anarchist! Don't you know that all human activity is political? We / They? Good vs Evil Dewars?

I don't want to believe it, but it might turn out to be true, you know.

Don Share said...

Look, this is received wisdom played on the grand piano. We must question it, no?

Michael Robbins said...

Whuzzat! whu ... oh, sorry, I must have fallen asleep.