Friday, June 7, 2013

Confined to the page?

Once upon a time, the writer might have the ear of an emperor or a pope, or possess a pulpit from which to proclaim, like Donne, his Christian message. He almost certainly had a patron to protect him; but in our time the power of the poet has been successfully confined, by the indifference of commerce and readers, to the page. He is free to experiment as he pleases; not even the street’s language is refused him or any imaginable subject. He is encouraged to ignore the requirements of rhythm, rhyme, repetition, or alliteration, consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia, metaphor, simile, or anything apparently rhetorical. In short, when he writes he scatters the page with prose and calls it lyric.

-- William Gass, "Learning from a Modern Master," NYRB, June 20, 2013