Sunday, November 21, 2004

Coming full circle

K. Silem Mohammad is "tired of commenting on these knee-jerk tirades against Language Poetry and "Post-Avant" writing" but even so, he's alerted his blog readers to the debate over at the Academy for American Poetry. Mohammad points to the January 28 essay by Richard Tayson at that site, found in the Poetry Debates, Manifestos, and Criticism section.

In Richard Tayson on Walt Whitman’s Preface to the 1855 Leaves of Grass, Tayson lays out his objections to language poetry, dismissing the movement as masturbatory grinds without soul or spirit or blood. Whitman on the other hand, suffused his writing with immediacy, with a hedonistic exploration of common people; his words can evoke salivation; they drip and fly and are soaked in realistic albeit zen-ish imagery.

Tayson spends a few words to tirade against poets in today's literary mags:

Often when I read the literary journals of today, I have a sense of the writer placing her- or himself above the fray, in a position of superiority. Look how smart I am, the poems declare, how clever and crafty, and how I can make you feel baffled and disengaged. This is the exact antithesis of what Whitman required of poetry.

Mohammad casts away his hebetude long enough to assert that Tayson's use of Whitman as a rebuke of language poetry can be turned on its head and be just as useful from that perspective. could take Tayson's negative terms and replace them with positive ones and come up with an argument that holds at least as much water as the original.

Well and well. Over at the WOMPO list there's been a week of concept flagellation and elbow shovelling as well as fine articulation over who might best describe or demean a topic very similar to Tayson's essay ("this kind of poetry"). What have I learned? That as always, the drive toward simplicity prevails (TKOP). That a hollering match is a hollering match even when denied. That name-dropping has not lost any of its heady weight in argument. That poetics and poetry can be antithetical. I've learned that the use of comparison (abstract art and "these kind of poems") can result in digressions, and then come full circle with the introduction of a supposedly new topic: "what use blogs?"

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