Tuesday, January 31, 2006

To Frost or not to Frost?

Great comment, Dallas! Frost is a really interesting case in the story of modern American poetry. He’s contemporaneous with most of the Modernists, or just a tiny bit older—born in 1874 (here in S.F.), Wallace Stevens is just five years younger—and published his first book, A Boy’s Will, the year before the First World War, a period when Imagism was at its height and the same year that the radical new art of Picasso, Duchamp, Matisse and many others had its first full-scale American exhibition at the landmark Armory Show of 1913

Pound championed Frost’s early work, admiring the way it eschewed the clich├ęs of poetic diction in favor of a knotty Yankee vernacular. Frost met Pound, H.D., and other key figures in the transatlantic avant-garde in London on the eve of the First World War, and found himself increasingly linked with their circle.

But as his career unwound, Frost came to champion the values of metrical rhymed verse in a period when all poetic standards seemed to have exploded. He’s often used in literary debates today as an exemplar of a kind of counter-Modernism, proof positive that you don’t have to call all the poetic conventions into question to be a relevant modern poet.

I think what Kasey’s in a twist about is younger poets who want the glamour of experiment (Loy, Stein) while really adhering to a fairly traditional conception of the poem (Frost). I completely agree with you that where you draw the line in deciding what counts as modern, and who its true heirs are, is wide open to debate. It’s a debate that’s still very much alive, and I think it helps to explain the special divisions and energies in American poetry today. I hope we’ll join the fray in our discussions …

Monday, January 30, 2006

Legitimate Dangers

Have any of you seen this brand new anthology of younger poets (all born after 1960) called Legitimate Dangers? The editors quote from Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein in order to frame this 2006 collection as a continuation of the Modernist adventure.

Poet K. Silem Mohammad has a long post today on his blog challenging the editor’s commitment to this legacy: http://limetree.ksilem.com

It’s a good example of how alive the Modernists still are, how four generations later we’re still squaring off over what Modernism is and how to deploy it in the present. Kasey argues that the editors really just use Loy and Stein as window dressing—the true progenitor of their anthology is Robert Frost, who famously compared free verse to playing tennis without a net.

Which makes me wonder: which poets did you expect to find on our Modern American Poetry syllabus who aren’t there? How does our own syllabus skew the story of modern American verse?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New Yipes!

Do any of you go to the New Yipes reading series in Oakland? This Sunday’s would be a good one to check out—you’d get a preview of Bruce Andrews and a chance to see Brandon Downing, a really interesting younger poet from New York who brings together poetry and film with a sort of hypercollagist sensibility. Directions and details at: http://newyipes.blogspot.com/

If you can’t make it--or even if you can--don’t forget Bruce Andrews’s reading at 5:30 on Tuesday, Jan. 31 in the Mills Hall lounge right before our class. We’ll start immediately after the reading, which is slated to last till about 7 p.m. See you then!

You can find out more about Bruce Andrews here: http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/andrews/

Friday, January 27, 2006

Any Other Marianne Moore Fans?

I would love to cover Marianne Moore for the in-class presentation...any other takers? E-mail me if interested--dallasf@hotmail.com

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Relief for the Wallet, Part Deux

Turns out it'll take the library a week or two to get the anthologies from the publisher and place them on reserve. The only things we're reading from the Poetics anthology in these first three weeks are:

Ezra Pound, "A Retrospect"

T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"

So there you go.

If you decide not to buy the Poetry anthology because you have the poems elsewhere, that's O.K. by me. Just take it upon yourself to track them down and bring them to class for our discussions. If you don't have a basic anthology already, this isn't such a bad one to own--it's pretty up-to-date, with decent bios and good footnotes--but it's your call. Sound fair?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Duchamp's Urinal Defaced

Speaking of Duchamp's urinal, did any of you see this in today's Chronicle?: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/01/24/entertainment/e081625S09.DTL&hw=duchamp&sn=001&sc=1000

Duchamp bought the urinal in 1917 at a commercial iron works, signed it "R. Mutt," named it "Fountain," and entered it into an avant-garde exhibit in New York, where it was promptly rejected. Poets leapt to its defense, featuring photos of the offending object (by Alfred Stieglitz) in a new magazine called The Blind Man. Mina Loy was also a contributor.

This week, a man was sentenced for attacking the urinal with a hammer, claiming this added to the value of the work by making it an original. The piece is currently valued at $3.4 million.

Fountain is among the most famous of Duchamp's "ready-mades." What would a ready-made poem look like?

Relief for the Wallet

Melissa asked about the Poetics anthology last night. I estimate we'll be reading about 30 pages out of it, so if you think it won't be useful to you in other classes, why don't we make that text optional? I'll work with Tonianne to get both books put on reserve in the library ASAP. Sound good?

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Mills MFAs:

Welcome to the blog for English 166/266: Modern American Poetry, 1910-present. Since we only meet once a week, I'm hoping this will be a useful way to share your ideas and questions about our reading between discussions. I'll start different topic threads each week, based on the comments that come in. Jump in with questions and quips at will. Be sure to sign your comments with a name we can recognize when we actually meet. See you Monday ...