Thursday, January 31, 2008

Outside In

Some thoughtful pre-AWP handwringing from Paul Hoover on the insiding of the "outside" of U.S. poetry. Old story, but salutary reminder of how quickly it's happened, how alienated an experimentalist—even on the barnside-broad definition of approval for the Beats, Black Mountain, and New York School—could feel as recently as AWP 2001.

I've seen vinyl, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and mp3s all in one short lifetime: now I'm facing the prospect of explaining to my son what "albums" were, as a form. It's not the changes themselves, but the speed of them—the pace at which they accumulate nostalgia—that starts to seem significant. We're deposited into the future before it can really be imagined as future, which sort of bends the avant-garde back on its past: 1910, 1968, AWPs of the Eighties. Memory takes on the remoteness of history, history becomes archaeology, and the future, as a category, becomes a subsidiary of the now. What's the new way of writing (and reading) that responds to that?

5 comments:

Angela Genusa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rodney k said...

Great comments, Angela. Thanks for leaving them. I'd like to think about them more, esp. as they get right at the heart of my concern that poetry may be professionally "blending" itself into irrelevance, despite (or because of?) the record numbers at this year's AWP. And that the blending itself is a symptom of the old time sense, which the avant-garde's hung onto for a century or more now, disappearing in the rush.

Or is it old-fashioned of me to expect poetry to tell us more about the present, or the possible forms of the future, than, say, the iPod?

Angela Genusa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rodney k said...

Thanks for the link, Angela. I followed it to Debra's blog and added her to the might Modern Americans blogroll.

Tim said...

I still wish it WERE about the writing. I'm glad some of us are still asking your question, Rodney.