Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The future of American poetry


A number of folks (Matthew Zapruder, Annie Finch, Ron Silliman, Rigoberto González, Marjorie Perloff, Brent Cunningham, Camille Dungy, Francisco Aragón, Eileen Myles), have been reflecting, over on the Poetry Foundation website, upon how American poetry has changed in the last decade.  Well, one change has been the introduction of a new form - by Charles Bernstein - the recantorium ("a bachelor machine, after Duchamp after Kafka)".  And I myself had only just the other day concluded that there really is a "School of Quietude" and... well, here's an amazing statement from Ron Silliman (scroll down), posted on the Poetry Foundation website:

"Poets blogging is just a symptom. The decline of indie bookstores, including the closure of such stalwarts as Cody’s & Shaman Drum, is just a symptom. The slow, painful death of newspapers, most of which have already tossed their book review sections and literary critics overboard, is itself just a symptom. The collapse of academic literary journals—viz. TriQuarterly, Southern Review, and Poetry Northwest, three of my first publishers—is just a symptom. Trade publishers openly speculate that they may be next, and even universities are starting to fear that their turn may be coming. They’re right.

"Just as MFA programs have pumped the number of poets writing and publishing in the United States up from a few hundred a half-century ago to tens of thousands today, the major institutions that not only embodied all of this activity but served an important (if hotly contested) gate-keeping function are now all being undermined or transformed by the ongoing revolution in communications technology. The poet’s relationship to his or her audience is undergoing a profound transformation. The poet’s relationship to the institutions and even to the tools of her or his practice is doing likewise. Everything is up for grabs.

"Some poets have chosen to embrace the new with everything from flarf to technology-based visual poetries. Others have decided that the “timeless” values of tradition will outlast even this. They recall and sometimes reiterate the archaeologist’s maxim that ultimately, hard copy is truth. If you can’t dig it up in 5,000 years, did it ever exist? Ian Hamilton Finlay, with his stone-carved minimal texts, may outlast us all.

"What’s apparent is that (a) this joyride isn’t over, and (b) we’re all in this together. When I realize that any chapbook publisher with a Blogspot page and PayPal account can sell directly to readers worldwide, I feel hopeful. I just hope we can find time to read & enjoy this great bounty."

--
Dunno about you, but in all seriousness, I find this a hearteningly candid & constructive way to think about - and inaugurate - the real (and not merely rhetorical and posturing) past, present, and "future of American poetry."

And this is a good time of year to thank Ron for his blog; it's impossible to imagine American poetry right now or in the future without it.

5 comments:

Henry Gould said...

That's very nice & very generous of you, Don Share. & this is a good time to say that. & it is certainly true.

ON THE OTHER HAND... there is something in all this that troubles me... & I find myself identifying it with Godel's problems with mathematics. "Poetry" is not commensurable with itself, & all the neat boxes we devise to explain it only lose that elusive moth. Poetry is incommensurable with itself. This is another way of saying that without a purpose from beyond itself, it's just another form of dust.

This I relate (perhaps unfairly) to Ron's implicit denigration of "tradition". & I have been doing this for some time. It's a form of interent protest I have been practicing for 15 yrs or so, since the days of the Buffalo List.

For me anyway WRITING is in part about its own incommensurability. & if you think this sounds postmodern/"LANGUAGEy", you are mistaken (this trouble is not translateable into a methodology). TS Eliot got closer to the whole shebang by describing his own poetry (in The Waste Land) as "rhythmic grumbling".

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