Tonight's Question: what has happened to the avant-garde? where are the experiments with language and form being made that will take us into the next phase of poetry? That is two questions, of course, but I'm hoping you won't object to the intrusion of the second question. I've been discussing the avant-garde with poet Norbert Blei after taking for publication two poems by him assembled from the spam that crowds his computer's mailbox.
Most poetry being published works within well-established forms, including my own; we post-Beats like to think we're at the cutting edge of poetical development, but actually the innovations we use are 80/ 90/ maybe even 100 years old. Which is fine--the slavish quest for innovation can be a sign that one is, actually, Square and craven and really just one of the crowd (I will explain that one day, but not tonight). But we should not kid ourselves that the whole history of written poetry was directed towards the ultimate goal of poets learning to say ordinary things to ordinary people in ordinary language, and that now we've achieved it the art will be enthralling and crackling with life forever. That would be something like travelling for three thousand years to get to Northampton, putting your bags down and declaring, "Well, it doesn't get any better than here."
So if any readers know of any hives of avant-garde activity they can point me to so I can reassure myself that someone is looking ahead to the next age (while I burrow around in the recent past), please email me or leave directions here. And if any poets of an experimental bent want to submit to ANGEL HEAD, do it! As I have to say often, I love Kerouac and Ginsberg and all that stuff, but the magazine is NOT the Beat Generation preserved in aspic with no interest in anything that comes afterwards. Aside from everything else, that would be so boring.
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Come on, ye soldiers of the next wave, wake us all up.