Wednesday, June 11, 2014


I’m not, in all the foregoing, attempting either to defend or critique what conceptual poets are up to. I just don’t see why people can get so aggravated about what these poets do. Is the spectrum of contemporary poetry not broad enough to accommodate their work? If not, why not? A century ago, people were scandalized by Prufrock, The Rite of Spring, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and countless other modernist works. Are people today really so shocked or annoyed by conceptual poetry? If so, these poets are onto something. If not, then we haven’t learned from our own literary history; and worse, have arguably become inured to that which is truly shocking: the things that go on in this world. Though not without its foibles like all else in poetry, conceptual work is a legitimate and probably inevitable response to “lyric narcissicm,” text-fettered writing, dullness, complacency, boredom, and much else besides. If it didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.
Read the rest here.