Saturday, 25 January 2014

Ventriloquism Of Self-Disgust

David Biespiel isn't exactly impressed with the new crop of American poets:
Earlier this week, while speaking to some younger poets, I became intrigued with their nascent fascination, to the point of headiness, with all things poetically elliptical, non-linear, and disjunctive. I say intrigued, but in my heart it felt more like exasperated. Listening to them, I realized that it was as if style—not form, not argument, not civic experience, not love or death or sorrow or sex or history, not life lived as life, not confronting life or yearning for knowledge of what it means to be living living in an actual, you know, geographic county that concerned them—but style and style alone was to be the subject of their art, or subjectlessness. Decent writers, all, sure. Young, quite likable writers at the beginnings of their literary lives. So, ok, they’re searching. The glare of fashion is bright. But the decency of both their desire and their writing seem to be leading to a dystopian poetics and to poetry that adheres to a ventriloquism of self-disgust.
Calling American poetry "a niche of the nada," Biespiel encourages poets to "confront the living world":
Because so many poets face extreme violent risks in the world—and I do not mean the false risks extolled in America’s writing workshops—there is a need for American poets to own up to and reject our sheer terrorlessness, to reject aesthetic fetishization in favor not only of examining the barbarism of human experience but also in being less existential and more confrontational of our own complicity in favoring an art of theory over an art of life. You want disjunctive? We live in civilization of extreme savagery. Exhibit A: We shop for the the cheapest Chinese goods and gift-wrap them for our children while the Chinese government imprisons its poets. In other words, you want poetry based on a theory that language has no meaning and the author is annihilated? Tell that to the workers outside the Gdansk shipyard for whom the word “strike” is not just life-affirming but life-threatening. Language means something.
(Illustration by David Henley.)

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