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Old 05-03-2012, 01:11 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Default Perloff

For about the first half I'm with her.
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Old 05-03-2012, 02:58 PM
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W.F. Lantry W.F. Lantry is offline
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She makes a few good points: "Formal choices are never without ideological implications." And she's right about there being no fixed canon: ask 10 poets who the great ones are, and you'll get eleven answers.

The anti-Dove stuff is pointless, as a commenter points out, a Murdoch owned publishing house owns the rights to Ginsberg and Plath, and was incredibly intransigent. She's still in love with the Asbery-O'Hara corridor, which seems pretty depopulated at this point. It's a little odd hearing her, of all people, complaining about "the culture of prizes, professorships, and political correctness."

I'm not a conceptualist, but I'm not hopped up against it, either. If she likes that stuff, good for her. But John Cage was big in the 50's and 60's, so it's hard to argue for his role in the present avant-garde. Dos Passos, who seldom gets enough credit for conceptualism, was way before that. Erasing Waldheim may be an interesting exercise, but not one that interests me personally. Bernstein's doing ballads these days? Who knew? Gizzi sounds like fun.

In the end, I'm left wondering about the burden of the essay. Poetry should be bricolage? Who could argue with that? No-one since Du Bellay. Maybe it's a general rant, saying "here's what I see as wrong, and here's the solution"? She's made some fine contributions over the years, but I'm not sure this is the ground-breaking essay people are saying it is...


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Old 05-03-2012, 05:04 PM
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Don Jones Don Jones is offline
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John Cage’s poetry achieved greater expression and recognition in the 70s and 80s. His masterpiece “Empty Words” is from the early 70s. He gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1988-89, in which he read, one for each of the six evenings of lectures, a very long mesostic poem based on his aleatoric assemblage from the multi-volume Journals of Henry David Thoreau. Certainly his poetry is not to everyone’s taste but for me it is one of the few successful attempts in "post-modern" poetry.

As for Perloff, I agree that the first half of the essay is unobjectionable but the poetry of “Interweb” aleatoric pastiche and/or conscious assemblage that she favors is not the most exciting thing going on in poetry today and, besides, no one did it better than Cage, including Jackson Mac Low.

Such an aesthetic can be very trying, even boring (though Cage has much to say about this important and overlooked emotion). At the same time, iambic meter carried to an extreme of consistency over many lines or poem after poem can be just as monotonous and wearying with its utter consistency as can be a poetics of pastiche and assemblage (aleatoric or otherwise).

Cage referred to art in the late 20th century (and by implication the early 21st) as “a river delta.” So many confluences of different schools and practices in all the arts have come together to give us an embarrassment of riches—naturally, one could argue that “embarrassment” is exactly the word!—so that we can choose what aesthetic and model we want.

Last edited by Don Jones; 05-03-2012 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:30 AM
Pedro Poitevin Pedro Poitevin is offline
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I don't have time to write a detailed critique, but there is a lot to disagree with in Perloff's essay. I am somewhat bored by the prevailing aesthetic of the elite literary magazines, too, but I'm not sure there is "extraordinary uniformity". If anything (especially if you don't only read the top magazines), the opposite seems true.

I have a less favorable opinion of John Cage than Don has, but perhaps a more favorable view of Oulipo and some of its modern day successors, like Christian Bök. But conceptual poetry has become too constrained by Kenneth Goldsmith's call to pursue "uncreative writing." (Some of Bök's work is quite creative.)
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