Friday, December 16, 2011

Apostrophe and the Post-Romantic Part 4: Conclusion and Afterword

An interesting thing to me about these above mentioned poets, is that, for the most part, they do not fit into a box.  Even the “hybridism,” described in Cole Swensen’s introduction to American Hybrid, does not contain these poets.  Swensen’s idea of hybridism, is relegated to only poetic hybrids, discussing nothing of genre hybrids, which is what I see Wenderoth and Göransson doing.  This bending and breaking of genre and form to fulfill a poetic goal, seems to lead into the bending and breaking of other poetic conventions, such as the conventions of apostrophe.

Younger poets will always have this ability to shake things up because they don’t have anything to lose, and they are not set in their ways.  There are some poets that do change constantly throughout their career, but they are the exception, not the rule.  For poetry that confronts the status quo, is alive, and full of potential, and I’ll always look to a younger poet.  They still have a sense of ambition, that gets lost somewhere along the way to becoming an established poet.

One can see through these examples that young emerging poets have interesting perspectives, techniques, and ways of employing their unique poetics, at least in the realm of apostrophe.  These poets take the apostrophic trope to new levels of interrogation and challenge the preconceived notions of what apostrophe is and can do.  Wenderoth shows us that apostrophe can exist inside of theory that exists inside of poetry.  Göransson demonstrates apostrophe’s ability to alienate in contrast to its traditional mode of reconciliation.  And through Doxsee we see apostrophe blankly evoking the you in opposition to the pathos that so readily typifies Romantic address. Though I’ve shown them against Culler’s romanticized vision of what apostrophe is, these poets still operate inside of the strictures of the trope:  the speaking I, utters to the absent and unspeakable you.

Afterword:  Criticism of the Criticism

With all this interesting work being done, one must ask, why isn’t there more criticism written about these emerging poets (in academic journals) or on this interesting topic of apostrophe?  Some of this lack might have to do with the size of the poet’s publisher, some of it might be the sheer amount of poetry out there and there are too few critics to delve into it all, and some of it might be embarrassing to the critic.

Cole Swensen’s introduction to American Hybrid briefly discusses the shift in the publishing world.  She points out that the vast majority of poetry publications come from small independent presses and that the once big publishing houses, now publish only a few titles a year.  When examining the role small presses play, and have played, in the world poetry publishing, one can see that they are important.  Some important books of the twentieth century were originally small press publications that were later picked up by large presses (specifically, and just off the top of my head, I’m thinking of Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, though this can’t be the only example).  With the possibility that important work is being published on small presses, is ignoring small press publications really a good idea for critics?

Also a part of this “explosion” of small presses is the explosion of books of poetry.  Lots and lots of poetry is being published.  I might even say more poetry is being published now than ever before, although I would have no way to know.  There is so much poetry out there, any anthology that is superlative, (Best New Poets, The Best American Poetry, The Best of the Web, etc.) is going to be flawed.  How could anyone, or even how could any one group, read every poem published in a given year, and come to a sound conclusion about what is “Best”?  So how does one talk about all this poetry?  Well, the easy answer is, just start reading.  Since there is so much, anywhere is a good enough start.  Start reading it for fun, start incorporating it into papers, and start treating it as the potentially groundbreaking work that some of it surely is or will be.

Looking at the poets that have been used as examples by the critics I have drawn from for this paper, one can see a common thread:  they are all established, well known and/or canonical poets.  Now, this isn’t a problem in and of itself, but one can see how voices can be left out of discussions.  If the internet, digital printing, and direct marketing are leveling the playing field, as Swensen asserts, then why haven’t these small press poets received the same critical examination as the large press, established poets?  The answer to this question, I think, lies in the desire to say something important about important poets and the difficulty it would be to convince the reader of criticism (other critics) that Unknown Poet is important.  It would also be embarrassing if no one agreed.

What are the consequences of critics ignoring small press publications?  Swensen shows that the rise of MFAs is leading to communities that are analyzing as well as creating the new poetries.  Eventually I can see this as a leveling force in criticism, but I honestly think it shouldn’t.  I feel that there is a place and a need for both.  Poets are already the primary readers of poetry, we don’t need to become our primary critics as well.

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