Friday, June 20, 2008

 

  

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Joe Bonomo, Installations, Penguin, London & New York 2008

Kamau Brathwaite, Trench Town Rock, Lost Roads, Denver 1994 & 2007

Amy Catanzano, iEpiphany, Erudite Fangs, Boulder 2008

Michael Chitwood, from Whence, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 2007

Michael Chitwood, Spill, Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT 2007

Stephen Collis, The Commons, Talon Books, Vancouver 2008

Jim Daniels, In Line for the Exterminator, Wayne State University Press, Detroit

C.B. Follett, Hold and Release, Time Being Books, St. Louis 2007

Richard Howard, Without Saying, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

Devin Johnston, Sources, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008

Paul Kane, Work Life, Turtle Point Press, New York 2007

Thomas David Lisk, Tentative List (A), Kitchen Press, Hell’s Kitchen (NYC) 2008

John Martone, Grammaire Magalénien, no publisher, location or date listed (but Charleston IL 2008)

Paul McCormick, The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter, Tarpaulin Sky Press, Grafton, VT 2008

W.S. Merwin, Spanish Ballads, Copper Canyon Classics, Port Townsend 2008 (reprint of the 1961 Doubleday volume with a new foreword by the author)

Jeffrey Miller, The Heart is a Quarter Pounder, with an introduction by Andrei Codrescu & an afterword by Bruce Cheney, farfalla press / McMillan & Parrish, Boulder (now Brooklyn ), 2005

Leslie Adrienne Miller, The Resurrection Trade, Graywolf Press,  St. Paul 2007

Mark Nepo, Surviving Has Made Me Crazy, CavanKerry Press, Fort Lee , NJ 2007

J. Allyn Rosser, Foiled Again, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2007

Mary Ruefle, Indeed I was Pleased with the World, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh 2007

Kate Schapira, Case Fbdy., Rope-a-Dope Press Collective, South Boston 2008

Frank Stanford, The Singing Knives, Denver 1979 & 2008

Frank Stanford, You, Lost Roads, Denver 1979 & 2008

Virginia Chase Sutton, What Brings You to Del Amo, with an introduction by Charles Harper Webb, Northeastern University Press, Boston 2007

 

Books (Other)

Susan M. Schultz, Dementia Blog, Singing Horse Press, San Diego 2008

 

Journals

Chicago Review, 53:4 & 54:1/2, Chicago, Summer 2008. 160-page Barbara Guest feature (includes Guest, Charles Altieri, Eileen Myles, Donald Revell, John Wilkinson, Martha Ronk, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Andrea Brady, Brenda Hillman, Nancy Robbin, Patricia Dienstfrey & Rena Rossenwasser & Garrett Caples). Also includes Eleni Sikelianos, Ed Roberson, Dan Beachy-Quick, Kent Johnson, Rusty Morrison, Kristin Prevallet, C.D. Wright, John Ashbery, more.

Fence, vol, 11, no. 1, Albany, NY , Spring/Summer 2008. Includes Hoa Nguyen, Kathryn L. Piringle, Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Heather Tone, Farnoosh Fathi, Don Me Choi, Michael Comstock, Aaron Kunin, Dubravka Ugresic, Stacey Richter, Julie Carr, more.

Lutheran Forum, vol. 42, no. 2, Delhi, NY, Summer 2008. Includes Kirby Olson on Lutheran Surrealism, more.

 

Other Media & Formats

The Blue Letter, first issue, Brooklyn, June 2008. Magazine in the form of a letter on blue paper, unstapled. Includes Rusty Morrison, Jeannie Hoag, Fred Schmalz.

Bowery Broadside Series, limited-edition broadsides made in conjunction with Farfalla Press / McMillan and Parrish & the Bowery Poetry Club, mostly 11-by-17 inches with original artwork by George Schneeman.
Anselm Berrigan, Comodesty in Advance
Edmund Berrigan, I’m Angry and You Are Next To Me
Tyler Burba, Thirty, for Jen DeNike
John Coletti, Whole States Move
Brenda Coultas, Some Nouns in My Possession
Marcella Durand, from Traffic & Weather
Jessica Fiorini, Battle Mile
Corrine Fitzpatrick, love poem
John High, For Florence & Paul
Bob Holman, It Might Be Lonelier (Without the Loneliness)
Stefania Iryne Marthakis, from a filmmaker’s handbook
Chris Martin, from Disequilibrium
Gary Parrish, Sonnet, for George and Katie
Simon Pettit, kundalini serpent power in readiness
Kristin Prevallet, Orphée
Arlo Quint, I live on at least two more worlds
Lee Ranaldo, inefficient polymath
Jessica Rogers, from A Procession of Persons, Traveling Together
Shappy Seaholtz, America!
Nathaniel Siegel, Untitled, for Michael Alago
Stacy Szymaszek, Untitled
Anne Waldman, High Shine on the Wood Blocks, for Anselm Hollo
Lewis Warsh, Disaster Relief
Dustin Williamson, Life in the Late Aught Nots

 

Still catching up on all items received
since January 11.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

 

One test of a book is how you feel about the writer & his or her work on completing the volume. In the case of Joseph Lease’s Broken World, I want to read everything he’s ever written, and for everything that’s written but not yet in print to get published as soon as possible. Broken World is a dazzling performance whose only weakness, to my eye & ear, is that it could have been much longer. At 66 pages, some of which have works only two lines long upon them, it’s not much larger than a chapbook. But Lease is a poet who combines the political earnestness of a George Oppen with the sound-driven poetics, say, of Robert Duncan, the richness of which really grows over time & reading. Broken World consists of two sections – one a gathering of eight relatively short poems, the other a longer work (it’s nearly half the book) in which nearly every section has the same title, “Free Again.” My sense is that, presuming that these works are representative, the ideal Lease volume would probably contain five sections on the order of these two. If it did, you’d have something on the scale – both in terms of richness & accomplishment – of Duncan’s Roots and Branches. That’s rare territory indeed.

An example of how this works in practice. While the first section of this book appears to be eight individual & distinct poems, it makes use of reiteration – I’m tempted to say rhyme – in ways that may recall Jack Spicer’s use of the same poem in two places in Book of Magazine Verse at least as much as it does Laurie Anderson’s Big Science. Here, in its entirety is “Little Lightning Bolt”:

Simon says, put your hands on your head. Simon says, put your finger on your nose. Simon says, you haven’t done enough. Simon says, you don’t care enough. Simon says, compulsive old answers can’t leave the world alone. Simon says, you’re going to die. Simon says, don’t let yourself care. Simon says, you can’t stop caring. Simon says, man-tall but thin as a phone call, compulsive old answers can’t leave the world alone. Simon says, you only have blood, marsh light, and sparrow. Simon says, put your hands on your head

And here is the second section of “Prayer, Broken Off,” three poems & eight pages later:

Simon says, put your hands on your head, Simon says, put your finger on your nose, Simon says you haven’t done enough, Simon says you don’t care enough, Simon says, you can’t stop caring

Oh look at you once again you’re a machine made of words, once again you’re a death, a failure, your responses always too big and dirty

and you want them to get bigger and dirtier

And tho the Simon says trope doesn’t appear elsewhere, the tone & rhythm of these two pieces are absolutely central to the first section of this book. This is a book unashamed of its feelings, or perhaps ashamed but willing to go forward with them anyway. And, as should be obvious here, the voice here is less that of the poet than of the dialog betwixt self & superego. Here is the first section of the second work, entitled – as almost all of these sections are – “Free Again”:

When I can’t sleep I am full of red buds and torn curtains and shiny cars parked in a lot. My lower-middle-class manners tear through my upper-middle-class manners: I stared at braided colors in water while my peers figured out the art of the deal. I was (I wanted to be) a Midwestern boy with a disco in my eyes – Chicago Jew, greengolden suburb Jew, son of a Coney Island Jew. When I drank I got punched up by luminous waves of anger. I thought I had to choose between winning in New York and being a good person. I’m not a good person: a good person doesn’t talk about himself – or so good people tell me. What is our country. Did it start as blank, as blank blank, as blank blank blank. I would love to fly to Vegas for the Punk Festival – we aren’t the first culture to “monetize relationships” – force steel splintering, force breathing, moisture in the air: the city dissolves, one long story of corruption: USA means the outer miracle kills the inner miracle: history has to live with what was here: no images, no lightning, no letters of flame: leaves move, clouds move, money moves, night pushes through the money –

It’s not an accident that this piece uses justified margins (most sections here don’t) or that almost all of Lease’ poems end with an em dash. This is a poetry not just of rhythms but of recriminations. It’s not an accident that it seems bounded between the disasters of the holocaust & AIDS. I believe him when he writes of anger, yet there is an undercurrent of humor here, as in the end of this piece, also called “Free Again”:

give the prince of business the days of wine and roses the smell of frost and coffee don’t be absurd: you’ll never meet princes of business you don’t know any “upper-class” people but you could just go to sleep, that would be good you could sleep here you would be warm.

This is, in the most literal sense, cold comfort – it almost sounds like the last thoughts of someone dying of hypothermia.

There are going to be people who really seriously hate this poetry, who I think are going to take Lease for some sort of hothouse flower. That’s why I think it would have been good to have had perhaps twice as much work here. It’s a cumulative effect, and if you get it, it can be exceptionally powerful. But if you don’t, I think Lease will make you squirm. Although, and I think (hope) Lease knows as much, if you do, then you deserve to squirm, absolutely.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

Tom Beckett
on three books
using the same cover photo

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Saving books from the flood
in Iowa City

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Blogging
the “Poetry of the 1970s” conference
from
Orono, Maine

Tom Orange’s photos (195 of them)

Ben Friedlander’s photos (75)

Kaplan Harris’s photos (37)

A 2-minute video of Clark Coolidge reading

Kit Robinson reading from Ted Greenwald’s You Bet

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The Nonconceptualist Manifesto

A note on boundaries

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Rae Armantrout, Charles Bernstein,
A.R. Ammons & Charlie Simic
in the new issue of Poetry

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Jerry Rothenberg’s blog

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Where bloggers face arrest

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Talking with Patricia Smith

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Iman Bakry,
an Egyptian poet
with a sense of politics & puns

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The end of the sentence

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If there are 2 million professional artists
in the
USA,
how many are poets?

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Craig Dworkin’s The Consequence of Innovation

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Robert Vasquez’ Braille for the Heart

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Talking with Li-Young Lee

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Patrick Lovelace
on the archaeology of
Bill Pearlman’s Inzorbital

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Stephen Vincent
tracing Charles Olson’s
Mayan footsteps

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Nearly 3 years after being destroyed
by Hurricane Katrina,
the Afro-American Book Stop is back

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Nashville’s one gay bookstore
is for sale

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Montpelier
looks past the closure of
Yankee Paperback
(just 3 dozen indies left
in the state of
Vermont)

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A profile of North Oakland’s
Book Zoo

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Beth Kanell
against prose on the MTA

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Robert Duncan in DailyKos

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Befriending stingrays
where poetry is a virus

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Kerouac’s typewriter

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Ihechukwu Madubuike,
a major African literary critic

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Ben Jonson’s elegies for his children

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Lucinda Williams & her dad

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The Jerry Seinfeld of American poetry

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David Trinidad’s The Late Show

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Verbal art & linguistic science:
building on an idea of Kent Johnson’s (PDF)

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John Godfrey in The Nation
(subscription required)

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Mary Rudge,
Poet Laureate of
Alameda

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Talking with Eva Salzman

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Johanna Skibsrud’s
Late Nights with Wild Cowboys

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Karen Houle, Allesandro Porco,
Jordan Scott & R.M. Vaughan

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What the UK) poet laureate needs

But women are baling right & left

§

Joyce Brinkman’s tenure
as
Indiana’s poet laureate

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The Dylan Thomas trail

& Homer’s

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Blogging, public intellectuals
& the academy

Public intellectuals, 2.0 (DOC)

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William Logan’s “Valentine’s Day Massacre”

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Poets as crime novelists

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How much money does a writer need?

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Language is physical

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Omissions
in the “Complete Works”
of Shakespeare

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C.K. Williams on his father

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Djelloul Marbrook’s
Far from
Algiers

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A Village Award for the Poetry Project

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A discussion with Asa Boxer

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Rawi Hage beats the big names
for the Impac Award

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A profile of Punjabi poet, Surjit Patar

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Remembering Faiz Ahmed Faiz
in
Milpitas

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Talking with Bharathi Devi

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Talking with Lauren Best

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Talking with Gore Vidal

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Reconsidering R.S. Thomas

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Talking with Raymond McDaniel

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James Reaney has died

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Who cares about book reviews?

§

The “golden age” of book ads

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Some books you could buy today
but only at Christie’s

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Mike Barnes, Mark Clement & Jenny Bryan

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Poetry & travel

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A profile of Billy Collins

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More on “the world’s worst poet

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The enduring influence of Edward Thomas

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Mary Karr on poems about fathers

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The bridge is down

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A profile of Bucky Fuller

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DIY fonts

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Variety teaches the Hollywood set
how to read a book

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They serve other purposes too:
Beautify with books

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Electronic records preservation

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Hell for Adorno

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Will the left ever learn
how to communicate
across generations?

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How the ‘60s
energized the right

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Staying smart in the new dark ages

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Singing Baudelaire

Gerard Souzay
singing Duparc’s
”La invitation au voyage
(MP3)

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The latest in
sub-vertising

§

Blek le Rat
& the roots of Banksy

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The street art of Seyed Alavi

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How to control the art world

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Kenneth Baker on
Frida Kahlo at SF MoMA

My review of the same show
in
Philadelphia

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Jess at Tibor de Nagy

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Oops

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A collection of essays
that shows
why it’s been a disaster
for 30 film critics
to quit or lose their jobs

in the last two years

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Monday, June 16, 2008

 

This is only going to get me into trouble, but…

I was thinking about the debate, to call it that, between flarf & conceptual writing, and specifically thinking that such a debate was in many respects the healthiest single phenomenon I’ve seen regarding poetry in several decades, because it meant that there were two contending (contesting) approaches to the new, and that you can actually feel the discourse getting off the dime finally of what to do after langpo and just doing it. And that feels so long overdue, frankly.¹

Then I had the thought, what if this were the 1950s? There are some interesting parallels. Flarf & conceptual writing appear literally decades after the last collective literary tendency, not unlike how the New Americans showed up 20 years after the rise of Objectivism. And there are already different voices & formations, again as in the 1950s. So the question occurred to me: if these are the new 1950s, just who are flarf & conceptualism. And then suddenly it was as clear as sunlight in spring:

Flarf is Projective Verse
Conceptual Poetry is the
New York School

Flarf, precisely by its interest in “deliberately awful” writing, is amazingly writerly. Its first notable device, Google sculpting, is not unlike way Olson et al reconceived the use of the linebreak & its relationship to speech so as to completely redefine how everyone (not just the Projectivists) would think about poetry. In this scenario, Michael Magee’s My Angie Dickinson is For Love for its generation. K. Silem Mohammad’s Dear Head Nation is what – the first Maximus? I don’t want to carry this analogy too far – Nada Gordon & Katie Degentesh don’t have to fight over who gets to be Denise Levertov (both are considerably more interesting in the long run, anyway). It would be valuable to note the differences between these formations as well – flarf is far more democratic, small d, for one. One doesn’t see Gary Sullivan pulling a “Reading at Berkeley” number any time soon. And is Rod Smith the Duncan, the Blackburn, the Edward Dorn?

Conceptual Poetry, like the NY School, borrows importantly on concepts from the New York visual arts world. Like Personism, it’s not about individual works of great art. It doesn’t overvalue personal creativity. It opts for fun. And it’s nostalgic for traditional forms – Kenny Goldsmith & Christian Bök, to name two, are deeply retro in terms of the projects they choose. Their relationship to fluxus & dada are as direct as Ashbery’s are to Stevens & Auden. All they’ve done is to switch the nameplates.

So where are the new Beats? Is that what slam or def jam poetics are about? I doubt it, actually, given just how completely the key early Beats were into form & literary history, but the whole valorization of the street poet, especially by the numbskulls who confuse Bukowski for a beat, has a deeply anti-intellectual strain one finds at a lot of slams.

And what would be the new SF Renaissance? One senses that the New Brutalist phenomenon really has not borne a distinct literary sensibility (one doesn’t hear anyone speaking of the New Yipes series as the foundation for a new poetics, for example, tho maybe I’m just hard of hearing). Is there a distinct aesthetic perceptible in Bay Poetics? Or are Bay Poetics as much of a fiction as was the first SF Renaissance? Maybe what that scene needs is a Jack Spicer, but is there anyone just plain grumpy enough?

It will, I think, be obvious that such an analogy as this does a lot of violence to all those named, for which I apologize, sort of. Sort of, because I don’t think my gut feel here is wrong. What we are seeing is the resurrection of some very basic tendencies active within poetry for over half a century, seeing them coalescing once again into shapely coalitions we can actually name. From my perspective, old collectivist that I am, this can only be a good thing for moving poetry forward.

 

¹ From my perspective the great “tragedy” of langpo is that there were no other seriously contesting approaches to poetry. Actualism, which I’ve written about before, dissipated after the death-by-alcoholism of Darrell Gray, and the NY School, gen 3, was never interested in working out its relationship to other poetics, period. Everyone else was pursuing the isolato mode of individualism, still the most popular (and futile) option.

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