Sunday, July 23, 2006

Notes Reading "Poesy XXXII"

Zeitgeist Press in Berkeley, CA have dedicated themselves to publishing "poetry you can actually read". What, so it mustn't be in Chinese? Russian? German?
You can read anyone if you're open-minded enough, or you have enough knowledge to get the references and understand the techniques. Or if you have enough patience to put up with bad technique and the poet's own bullshit. I have nothing against Zeitgeist Press, but their mission statement does exemplify the kind of anti-intellectual attitude that pervades in the small presses and makes much of what we produce so boring.
Everything that isn't easily understood is dismissed as "academic nonsense" (phrase courtesy of Brian Morrisey). Must the two words necessarily be yolked together? And what does "academic" mean? (We ought to understand our terms before we use them.)

WC Williams didn't call necessarily for a shift to vernacular speech in poetry; what he wanted was a correlative language in poetry for the speech rhythms of the modern age--and that was achieved a long time ago by Pound, Williams himself, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas--all of whom, with the exception of the Doc--are dismissed as "unreadable" by practising poets today (and those who love WCW's plums and wheelbarrows don't read his great "Patterson" epic).

Sentence of the week: The images are not rained upon with glorified intricate metaphors, but prevail getting down to the seeds in the brilliance and power of raw truth (Brian Morrisey again).

I get fed up (and this is the thrust of it--I'm not presenting an objective argument, it just bores me)--I get fed up with reading the same flat statements in unadorned language about things that happen to all of us all the time, which is where small press poetry (especially of the hipper variety) has gone, with lines always broken up in the same way. It reads a lot better than those folks who mishandle a loftier language and fumble with elaborate metaphors; but it's still dull--poets have been writing in the same way since Kerouac died.
And I'm really fed up reading about prostitutes and homeless guys and the nobility of the streets. That's sentimental. You love the streets so much, let the Whitman-lookalike who hassles you for cigarettes and change every day have your apartment and you go sleep in a doorway.

Every time I read a poetry magazine these days I have the strong feeling that poetry is ready to move into the next phase of its historical development, and everybody's just waiting around to see what happens. We are scribbling poems in the bright hungover morning with the ashes of the real party--the Beat Generation heyday--glowing faintly on the fire. It's not a bad place to be, but there's more to come.

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