Monday, April 30, 2007

"The post-NY School poem is perhaps the closest thing we have in the 21st century to a normative poetry in the United States."

Is this true? I think there's a certain kind of post-NY School poem that's been birthed by the various MFA mills. Say, a poem where you mention a famous pirate, then your favorite brand of organic tator chips, then mention how 'Stewart' hasn't walked the dog yet. But y' know, if the guy from Coldplay says he's really into 'White Light/White Heat', does that have much currency? Alot of these poems, and there are so many of them that there's no need to blame a particular poet, are quirky narrative. Alot of the stuff in Fence, McSweeney's, Jubilat are quirky narrative. Alot of indie films, say those in the post-Wes Anderson mode, qualify as quirky narrative. I should quit my qualms however, because the key word here is narrative.

The normative thing about quirky narrative poetry is that while it is quirky, it's quirky in a completely acceptable way. It removes things from their context just enough to appear avant, but spare the reader any kind of difficulty. Because difficulty is bad.

The making of a poem contains an implicit difficulty. For starters, what to write? Maybe that seems obvious to point of naivete. But if you believe a poem can contain more and articulate more than just quirkiness, then what? What if you think poetry is maybe the best artform for navigating the world?

Naturally the quirky narrative integrates certain apsects of The New York School Poem into it's ecosystem, but outsources so many others. When Some Trees came out, The Instruction Manual was radical. An imitation of that poem in 2007 that's shorter and blander is not.


Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike H said...

Was this deleted comment too filled-with-piping-hot-vitriol to exist or what? Hello?

Jordan said...

You got me thinking about quirkiness as a vaccine against actual differences between people, which got me talking about the people who speak up on behalf of actual difficulty in poems, which got me feeling a little cynical, as in, I sure wish somebody would sell me something to help me deal with all this *difficulty* in poetry.

Which would have been fine to leave in your comment box except the way I wrote the comment it sounded like I was angry at the people who speak up on behalf of difficult poems, which I'm not, except that I'm still feeling like *difficulty* is a snake oil/bill of goods/men-from-boys separator and I'm not playing along with those games.

So anyway. Quirkiness. Vague writing usually sucks; quirkiness is nothing if not specific; even if nothing else is doing in the writing the specificity of quirkiness is a comfort in the way knowing there are other ham radio operators out there is a comfort. It's a sign that there is another intelligent observer of non-standard experience out there. Is it a sign of art? Probably not.

Tonight I'm going to ask Bob Hicok how he feels about quirkiness and difficulty. I'll let you know what he says.

Jordan said...

Forgot to ask him.

Anyway, if you get the chance, I'd like to hear more about the difference between quirkiness and difficulty.