Skip to main content

Poetry on the Brink? Marjorie Perloff


Dejà vu?
What happens to poetry when everybody is a poet? In a recent lecture that poses this question, Jed Rasula notes:
The colleges and universities that offer graduate degrees in poetry employ about 1,800 faculty members to support the cause. But these are only 177 of the 458 institutions that teach creative writing. Taking those into account, the faculty dedicated to creative writing swells to more than 20,000. All these people must comply with the norms for faculty in those institutions, filing annual reports of their activities, in which the most important component is publication. With that in mind, I don’t need to spell out the truly exorbitant numbers involved. In a positive light, it has sanctioned a surfeit of small presses . . . to say nothing of all the Web-zines.
What makes Rasula’s cautionary tale so sobering is that the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety. The national (or even transnational) demand for a certain kind of prize-winning, “well-crafted” poem—a poem that the New Yorker would see fit to print and that would help its author get one of the “good jobs” advertised by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs—has produced an extraordinary uniformity. Whatever the poet’s ostensible subject—and here identity politics has produced a degree of variation, so that we have Latina poetry, Asian American poetry, queer poetry, the poetry of the disabled, and so on—the poems you will read in American Poetry Review or similar publications will, with rare exceptions, exhibit the following characteristics: 1) irregular lines of free verse, with little or no emphasis on the construction of the line itself or on what the Russian Formalists called “the word as such”; 2) prose syntax with lots of prepositional and parenthetical phrases, laced with graphic imagery or even extravagant metaphor (the sign of “poeticity”); 3) the expression of a profound thought or small epiphany, usually based on a particular memory, designating the lyric speaker as a particularly sensitive person who really feels the pain, whether of our imperialist wars in the Middle East or of late capitalism or of some personal tragedy such as the death of a loved one.
http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.3/marjorie_perloff_poetry_lyric_reinvention.php

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

David Oliver Cranmer

Not Just Another Playlist Often, I sit in my swivel chair looking out the window, while jazz, country, or rock music plays. This pleasure goes on for many hours a mystic trance of sorts streaming—the glue maintaining my soul. I turn the best songs into playlists (once we called them mix tapes) puzzling over the perfect order. Does Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World” kick off my latest list or make it the big soulful closer? And does “Mack the Knife” go higher in the set than “Summertime?” That’s an Ella Fitzgerald duet! “Foolishness? No, it’s not” whether you are climbing a tree to count all the leaves or tapping to beats. These are the joys that bring inner peace and balance (to a cold universe) lifting spirits skyward. David Oliver Cranmer ’s poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in publications such as Punk Noir Magazine , The Five-Two: Crime Poetry Weekly , Needle: A Magazine of Noir , LitReactor , Macmillan’s Criminal Element , and

Amy Holman

My mother made herself the deer with a broken leg  We saw a deer through the pane into someone else’s yard. The leg moved like a tube sock pinned to the hip  and half filled with sticks. I did not like to see it suffer, either. She was upset —my mother —that no one helped  the doe. Was it a mother, too? As if we were the first to observe the scene. We weren’t. All had been told to let her be. My mother had suffered a destruction  of the self, a divorce, and no one cared. That wasn’t true.  We were grown, on our own. I agree it was hard. Yet  in those moments of a cold November day, we watched  a doe, disabled and enduring, walk across a yard and eat  a hedge. I wish she could have seen it like that. Amy Holman is the author of the collection, Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window (Somondoco Press, 2010) and four chapbooks, including the prizewinning Wait for Me, I’m Gone (Dream Horse Press, 2005). Recent poems have been in or accepted by Blueline,

Corey Mesler

  I think of you tonight, my Beats I think of you tonight, my Beats, and I am grateful.  I walked the narrow lanes of Academia and never felt at home. There were men and women in the flowerbeds, their heads full of theorems and poems. There were teachers who could lift their own weight in prose.  I was lonely. I was too loose.  I was a lad from the faraway country of Smarting. But I had you as so many before me. I had you and I knew secret things. I could count on you like a percussion. And now I want to say: I love you.  If not for you, what? I want to say. If Allen Ginsberg did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.  COREY MESLER has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South . He has published over 25 books of fiction and poetry. His newest novel, The Diminishment of Charlie Cain , is from Livingston Press. He also wrote the screenplay for We Go On , which won The Me