Thursday, September 02, 2010

An interesting essay by Tony Hoagland up on the Poetry Foundations site:

What do we, as readers, want from a poem? On the one hand, plenty of poetry readers are alive and well who want to experience a kind of clarification; to feel and see deeply into the world that they inhabit, to make or read poetry that “helps you to live,” that characterizes and clarifies human nature. To scoff at this motivation for poetry because it is “unsophisticated” or because it seems sentimental—well, you might as well scoff at oxygen.

Similarly, to dismiss the poetry of “dis-arrangement,” the poetry that aims to disrupt or rearrange consciousness—to dismiss poems that attract (and abstract) by their resistance, thus drawing the reader into a condition of not-entirely-understanding—such a dismissal also seems to foreclose some powerful dimensions of poetry as an alternate language, a language expressive of certain things otherwise unreachable. Perhaps language as a study of itself has ends which are otherwise unforeseeable.

In our time, this bifurcation of motives among poets has become so pronounced as to be tribal.

And from later in the essay:

"One might extrapolate from these several examples the features of a period style. Here are the characteristics I observe:

1. A heavy reliance on authoritative declaration.
2. A love of the fragmentary, the interrupted, the choppy rhythm.
3. An overall preference for the conceptual over the corporeal, the sensual, the emotional, the narrative, or the discursive.
4. A talent for aphorism.
5. Asides which articulate the poem’s own aesthetic procedures, premises, and ideas.

Surely I am over-generalizing and omitting some things. But it is curious how much contemporary poetry bears some combination of these stylistic features . . . ."

Hmmmm . . . I might add "a heavy reliance on irony as the predominant tone." Or "a marked lack of interest in human emotional connection, almost to the point of being autistic."


Oh, yeah. And in case you missed it, there was a war that ended. In commemoration, I'd like to play this song, "War is Over: Merry Christmas":

War is over. If you want it.

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