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

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, concis, Gargoyle, The Westchester Revie…

Updates

Hi all. As you can tell, things have been quiet around here in the last six months. Heather and I have had the most exciting of lives--he said sarcastically--which has  hindered progress, let's say. We haven't gotten many submissions either, as I think poets assumed the market died. Nope. Still alive, just coming out of a lull. Look for more frequent updates going forward, as we expand back into poetry news and links from around the web as well as original poems from the small cadre of writers who follow us.

Priority list for LNP:
outreach (finding new poets for us to publish)interviews with small press poets and editorscurating poetry news (send your news to our email or PM us on social media)updating the Paul Blackburn page. You can follow my Black Mountain Poets obsession as I read my way through Blackburn's letters to Julio Cortazar, published last year by Lost & Found: The CUNY's Poetics Document Initiative. writing on Joel Oppenheimer, Black Mountain poet and …

June Poem Reviews

I've had fiction and non-fiction reviews published in quite a few journals and have been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, when I could afford it. Therefore, I feel quasi-professional in those arenas. I don't necessarily feel that way about my poetry reviews. I have opinions, though, and in the interest of keeping my poetry-mind occupied during an otherwise stressful time in my life, I'd like to make you, the poetry world, an offer. If you mail me your chapbook or book--at least 24 pages but no more than 100 pages, self-published or traditional--I will post a review of between 150 and 300 words about it, as professionally as I can, in the following months. Promise. Mail me your book, get a review. Easy. If I get a huge response, I'll declare a cap and communicate it here. I would prefer to work from print copies. I hate reading poetry in PDF or MOBI--my preferred methods for prose--because the lines never break correctly and I find myself critiquing lineati…