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Old 07-27-2001, 01:15 PM
Tony Tony is offline
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Knowing that you edited an anthology on Expansive poetry, I’m interested in your take on the subject, particularly in terms of the trend in relation to the word “expansive.” I had been unfamiliar with the term Expansive poetry until someone here, in relation to a piece that I posted, directed me to a website (Expansive Poetry and Music Online) that focuses on the subject. I assumed that expansive poetry was merely a descriptive term, and did not realize until reading further that a whole poetic trend or movement had taken that name. I decided to do some research; I picked up Kevin Walzer’s “The Ghost of Tradition”. (I haven’t yet seen your book.). I’ve read through about half of it now, through Mary Jo Salter plus your work and Tim Steele’s. (I particularly liked the snippet from your Samson poem, as well as “Approaching a Significant Birthday, He Peruses the Norton Anthology of Poetry”.) I’d hoped to ask Tim these same questions, but he left before I had the chance.

The two most prevalent common elements (though far from universal) that I noticed among the different authors and poems represented were a tendency to blank verse, much of it loosely metered, and a focus on narrative, often a blending of poetic and short-story sensibilities.

Walzer refers to Wade Newman’s 1988 essay in which the name was first used, and mentions expansiveness in terms of trying to expand the audience for poetry, as well as expanding the repertoire of usable forms at the poet’s disposal. He mentions Dick Allen’s quote: “Our poetry is Expansive—it moves outward from the Self to reestablish identities with historical, social, religious and scientific realities.” Allen’s seems more to the mark to me; after all, there are other populist trends such as slam poetry that seek or work to widen the audience for poetry.

What, in a nutshell, is your take on what the main characteristics of Expansive poetry are? What makes this poetry expansive? How well does the Expansive poetry trend or movement live up to its name?


[This message has been edited by Tony (edited July 28, 2001).]
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Old 07-27-2001, 02:03 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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>>What, in a nutshell, is your take on what the main characteristics of Expansive poetry are? What makes this poetry expansive? How well does the Expansive poetry trend or movement live up to its name?

I edited New Expansive Poetry, which was a revised edition of the original book that was edited by Frederick Feirstein. In my introduction I discuss the history of the "expansive" term, which you fairly summarize in your own post. Frankly, I was stuck with the term because of the original book's title and don't care for it at all. It refers to the uneasy union of two movements (if you can call them that)--new formalism and new narrative. The former has been adequately scrutinized; the latter has received relatively little attention. So as far as I'm concerned, "expansive" is simply a label that doesn't have much meaning at all. I do quote from Feirstein's original introduction, in which he makes some fairly good points on the implications of "expand." It may well be that "expansivist" will manage to stick in the same way that "imagist" has, but I would rather leave it to others to sort out its implications. Interestingly, the first truly public use of the term occurred in a special issue of Crosscurrents, which mistakenly labeled its cover "Expansionist Poetry."
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Old 07-27-2001, 05:02 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Expansive? Expansionist? Both are expressive terms for the waistlines of SOME of my contemporaries. Me, I'm fighting a losing battle to keep the trouser ratio at 33 waist, 32 inseam. Losing the fight at fifty, I may become an expansive poet yet.
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Old 07-27-2001, 05:45 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Tony, I haven't visited Expansive Music and Poetry for a few days, but I think Wade Newman's essay is listed on the left menu; and, if I recall correctly, one by Dick Allen is in the archives; maybe one by Gwynn? There are several other essays archived that approach the topic from various angles, including one or two by Joseph Salemi and Art Mortensen, the editor. A look at the sample poems posted from PIVOT 51 will give you examples (while here, I'll brag: I have five on the Watts Towers in the current issue, 52, all workshopped here, with, I recall, help from you. Thanks again).

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Ralph
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Old 07-28-2001, 10:21 AM
Tony Tony is offline
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Sam, thanks for your answer. Terms like New Formalism and New Narrative are easier to grasp, because they refer to quite specific and more tangible elements, while Expansive refers to a quality that can be interpreted in various ways. I tend to be skeptical of labels, because they promote pigeonholing and broad, sweeping attempts to catagorize something that's very individual, and can vary widely in style and focus even in a single poem's works.

Tim, I've been trying to fight my expansivist tendencies and seem to have reached a steady state. I think expansion is an occupational hazard for poets, though lately I've been writing on the run; suddenly, revisions to poems come to me as I walk the sidewalks of Manhattan during my lunch hour. That itself is a hazard, as I have to remain somewhat focused on who's coming in my direction as I try to jot down my latest inspirations. If it's true, though, that writing is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration, I should have sweated off quite a few more pounds than I have.

Ralph, congratulations--I look forward to seeing that series in Pivot. I plan to submit "One April Night" and a couple of other pieces when submissions open again in August. I see that both Wade Newman's essay and Sam's introduction to New Expansive Poetry, as well as numerous other essays.

Tony
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Old 08-01-2001, 04:59 PM
Caleb Murdock Caleb Murdock is offline
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It's nice to see that there is so much healthy skepticism of a new and unnecessary label. Labels should be used sparingly, and should be descriptive in a meaningful way, which "Expansive" isn't. That label is just a gimmick by those who are concerned about PR.

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Old 08-01-2001, 06:27 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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>>It's nice to see that there is so much healthy skepticism of a new and unnecessary label. Labels should be used sparingly, and should be descriptive in a meaningful way, which "Expansive" isn't. That label is just a gimmick by those who are concerned about PR.

I hate to agree with this, but I may have to. As I've said, I never much cared for it but was stuck with it when I had to re-edit Feirstein's book. Using a different "label" would have necessitated a change of title, and that would have been misleading, giving the indication that the book I edited was totally new. Still, "expansivist" is no more or less useful than "projectivist" or "vorticist" as a descriptive term; all it does is name a banner under which a group of poets have decided to rally (or who have been placed there by critics). We might say the same thing of "romantic," now that I think of it.
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