An interesting post over on Josh Corey's blog, quoting a Reginald Shepherd email, regarding the current debate in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) about what is (and is not) avant-garde. Here's a brief quote (I like the handy list of things "done by the Modernists"):
" . . . I don't see anything--and I do mean anything--in so-called avant-garde work that wasn't done by the Modernists: collage, montage, pastiche, quotation, parody, juxtaposition ironic and non-ironic, fracture and fragmentation, ungrammaticalities and syntactic deformation, decentered subjectivity, non-referentiality (whatever that can mean as applied to language, which only exists as such as the nexus of concept, sound, and physical mark), critical or celebratory incorporation of popular culture, critique of mass society and capitalism, critique of art as a social institution, etc. There is nothing in the so-called avant-garde, from the New Americans to the Language poets to whatever the contemporary crew wants to call themselves besides "too good for everyone else," that wasn't done by the Modernists. There's nothing wrong with this per se (as someone said once, there is nothing new under the sun)--after all, none of us invented the English language either, or the Roman alphabet, which doesn't mean that we don't have the right to use them or the potential to do interesting things with them. But as I said in one of my previous emails, there is a lot wrong with pretending that one came up with these techniques and approaches oneself, especially when one then goes on to congratulate oneself for one's daring and perspicacity.
"If one is in the "avant-garde," then one is part of the leading formation of some army or another. Besides questioning at the teleological nature of such a conception (toward what goal is one moving? what exactly is the goal of poetry in this progressivist conception? I feel a grand narrative coming on), I also wonder just what one imagines oneself to be in the vanguard of? . . ."
Great food for thought (or not, depending on your mood and point of view). Go visit and read the full text.