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IN ANTHOLOGIZING THE NINETIES
In the two-yearspan 1993-94,no fewer thanthreemajorpoetryanthologiesappeared that featuredthe poetryof what has been called "theother tradition"-the traditioninaugurated thirty-five years ago by Donald M. Allen's New American Poetry: 1945-1960. These threeanthologiesare,in orderof publication, Eliot Weinberger' AmericanPoetry s since 1950: Innovatorsand Outsiders,PaulHoover's Postmodern AmericanPoetry,and A Douglas Messerli's From the OtherSide of the Century. New AmericanPoetry 19601990.' In 1994, moreover,therewere two otherlargeanthologiesof alternate poetriesby "younger"poets,2these two in the traditionof Ron Silliman's In TheAmerican Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism and Douglas Messerli's earlier 'Language'Poetries: An Anthology.They are Peter Gizzi, Connell McGrath,and JulianaSpahr's two-volume the anthologycalled Writingfrom New Coast,3 andDennisBaroneandPeterGanick's The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets. Five volumes, then, of the "new"alternatepoetries. And a sixth-this time a real blockbuster-is in progress:JeromeRothenbergand PierreJoris's two-volumePoems The for theMillennium: University CaliforniaBookof ModernandPostmodern of Poetry, which differsfromall of the above by coveringpoetryandpoetics of the entiretwentieth From centuryandfromaroundthe world.The firstvolume of Poemsfor theMillennium, Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude (1995), takes us from such "forerunners" Modernismas of and Blake,H1lderlin,Dickinson,andRimbaudthroughthe Futurisms, Dada,Surrealism, with complex "galleries" individualpoets, while the second-and of Objectivism,along sure to be more controversial-volume (1997) brings us up to the global present. A new avant-garde thus seems to be in the making-indeed, oxymoronicas it may a new avant-garde consensus.Yet the countercanonizing therecentanthologies of sound, is not without its own aporias.What these are is my subjecthere. TheModest Opposition My starting pointis thatof the avant-garde anthologiststhemselves:DonaldAllen's New AmericanPoetryof 1960. Fromthe vantagepointof 1995, the most startling thingabout the Allen anthology-still acknowledgedby all lateranthologistsas the fountainhead of radicalAmericanpoetics-is its modesty. TheNew AmericanPoetryrunsto 454 pages, it includingstatementsof poetics, biographicalnotes, and a shortbibliography; contains forty-fourpoets, all of themhavingcome to prominencein the periodbetween 1945 (the
1. These will be subsequentlycited in the text as DA, EW,PH, and DM. 2. Iput "younger" quotesbecause botheditorsunderstand thereare "older"(in years) in that but still beginnerpoets who belong in these groupings. 3. Strictlyspeaking,volume1 ofthis anthologyis called Presentation is editedby Gizziand and McGrath;volume2, Technique,by Gizziand Spahr. Volume1 is devotedto poems, but volume2 is not all critical prose; it too includespoem-manifestos,and so on.
104 diacritics 26.3-4: 104-23
end of WorldWarII) and 1960 (the date of publication).The four-pageprefaceopens as follows: In the years since the war Americanpoetry has enteredupon a singularlyrich period. It is a period thathas seen publishedmanyof thefinest achievementsof The the oldergeneration:WilliamCarlos Williams'Paterson, DesertMusicand OtherPoems, and Journeyto Love; Ezra Pound's The Pisan Cantos,Section: Rock-Drill,andThrones;H. D. 's laterworkculminatingin herlongpoemHelen in Egypt;and the recentverseofE. E. Cummings, MarianneMoore,and thelate WallaceStevens.A wide varietyofpoets of the second generation,whoemerged in the thirtiesandforties, have achieved theirmaturityin thisperiod: Elizabeth to Bishop, EdwinDenby,RobertLowell, KennethRexroth,and LouisZukofsky, name only a few very diverse talents.And we can now see that a strong third generation, long awaited but only slowly recognized,has at last emerged.[xi] to the Note thatAllen introduces "new"Americanpoetry,not as an"alternative" anything else but as the successor of two precedinggenerations.He does not quarrelabout the Modems:if Eliot isn't includedin the above list, it is becausehe hadstoppedwritinglyric poetry after Four Quartetsand had turnedto the theater.The cited second generation, moreover, is more "diverse"(Allen's word) here than it will ever be again in the anthologies: Bishop and Denby, Lowell and Rexroth and Zukofsky. And the third generation,presumablyfollowing in the footsteps of the first and second, is now said to be emerging. HereAllen indulgesin a mild sleight-of-hand. CharlesOlson,thechefd'dcole of The New American Poetry, was born in 1910, seven years before Robert Lowell. Other membersof this generationincludedby Allen are RobertDuncan(b. 1919), Lawrence Ferlinghetti(b. 1919), BarbaraGuest (b. 1920), Jack Kerouac (b. 1922), and Denise Levertov(b. 1923). Allen is surely awareof these discrepanciesbut he evidently wants thanrivalsso as to strengthen hand.And his to presenthis "newpoets"as successorsrather is thereis anotherreasonthat"thirdness" emphasized: Thesenewyoungerpoetshavewrittena large bodyofwork,butmostof whathas been published so far has appeared only in a few little magazines,as broadsheets, pamphlets, and limited editions, or circulated in manuscript;a large amountof it has reachedits growingaudiencethrough poetry readings.[DA xi] to Hereis the raisond'etre of Allen's anthology:he is introducing thelargerpoetrypublic, which would notice Grove (Evergreen)Pressbooks in the bookshops,4 groupof poets a who have not yet beenpublished,except in small-presseditions, broadsides(then much 's less commonthannow), andthe littlemagazines.WhereasLowell's LordWeary Castle BraceandLife Studies(1959) by Farrar, Straus, (1947) had been publishedby Harcourt, Olson's In Cold Hell in Thickethad been broughtout by Cid Corman'sesoteric little Williams'sequally magazine,Origin(1953), and TheMaximusPoems 1-10 by Jonathan esotericJargonPressin NorthCarolina(1953). The need to get the wordout thusseemed ostensibly a chronologicalterm,meantsomethingmore like urgent:"thirdgeneration," "thirdworld"-the neglected Other.
4. The GrovePress had, by 1960, a reputationas an avant-garde(e.g., SamuelBeckett)and publisherthatbroughtoutprimarilyforeign (e.g., HenryMiller, WilliamBurroughs) underground novels (the nouveauromanofRobbe-Grillet,Sarraute,Butor,etc.) andplays (MargueriteDuras), to American as well as "unpublishable" avant-gardeworks.Buttheyhad not undertaken represent poets untilAllen put out his anthology.
diacritics / fall-winter 1996
Accordingly,Allen felt little compunction(or inclination)to theorizeas to thenature of the New AmericanPoetry. He tersely said: a [Thispoetry]has shownone commoncharacteristic: totalrejectionofall those qualitiestypicalof academicverse. Following thepractice andpreceptsofEzra and Poundand William Carlos Williams,it has builton theirachievements gone on to evolvenewconceptionsofthepoem. Thesepoets havealreadycreatedtheir own tradition,theirownpress, and theirpublic. Theyare our avant-garde,the true continuersof the modern movementin Americanpoetry. Throughtheir workmanyare closely allied to modern painting, jazz and abstractexpressionist the world to be America'sgreatestachievements today recognizedthroughout in contemporaryculture. This anthology makes the same claimfor the new Americanpoetry. [DA xi-xii] all Note thepaucityof explanation: New AmericanPoets"reject thosequalitiestypical the of academic verse," and many are "closely allied" to jazz or abstractexpressionist painting. Period. The reader can expect poems written in free verse and an "open" typographyratherthanin meter and stanzaforms, and there may well be jazz rhythms to (however those are transferred poetry)and/orverbalequivalentsto "abstract expressionist" painting. Pound's "Makeit New!" thus becomes Allen's "Keep it Brief!"Avoid theoretical andideologicalbattles,becauseyourreaderis boundto findexceptions.AndindeedAllen in is guidedby two simple principlesof selection:nonpublication the majorvenues and, now goes on to explain, group identityor what we might call community. as the editor Therearefive suchgroupsin the anthology.The firstcomprises"poetsidentifiedwith the two important magazinesof the period, Origin and Black MountainReview": Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn, Joel Oppenheimer,Jonathan Paul Carroll,LarryEigner, and Denise Levertov [xii]. Note Williams, Paul Blackburn, thatof these ten, only one (Levertov) is a woman-a fact which will become important in alternatecanon-makinglater. And note furtherthat Olson, Duncan, and Creeley constitutea kindof triumvirate, othermalepoets being somewhatsecondary,even for the Allen, as they will be for later anthologists.Indeed, one, Paul Carroll,has disappeared fromjust abouteveryone's list. The secondgroupis designatedas the SanFranciscoRenaissance, Duncanemerging These poets, as the leadingpoet of this groupeven as he also belongs to Black Mountain. who largely became known through oral performancein the Bay Area, include the following thirteen:BrotherAntoninus (William Everson), Robin Blaser, Jack Spicer, BruceBoyd, JamesBroughton, MadelineGleason, Helen Adam,LawrenceFerlinghetti, and KirbyDoyle, RichardDuerden,Philip Lamantia,Ebbe Borregaard, Lew Welch. The San Francisco Renaissance is closely allied to the third group, "The Beat the Generation," maindifferencebeing thatthe latterwas originallyassociatedwith New York. It includes Allen Ginsberg,his young friend Peter Orlovsky,Jack Kerouac,and GregoryCorso--only four poets, all of whom, incidentally,came into contactwith the second groupat readingsin San Francisco. The fourthgroupis thatof the New York Poets:JohnAshbery,KennethKoch, and FrankO'Hara,who met at Harvardand migratedto Manhattan, where they in turnmet EdwardField, Barbara Guest,andJamesSchuyler.This is of coursethe groupallied with AbstractExpressionism.And finally, Allen isolates a fifth groupof somewhatyounger definition."GarySnyderandPhilipWhalen,allied to the poets that"hasno geographical Beats, are more properlyplaced here, as are Stuart Perkoff, Michael McClure, Ron Loewinsohn, Ray Bremser, David Meltzer, John Wieners, EdwardMarshall,Gilbert Sorrentino,and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka).Again, there are overlaps:Barakawas a 106
close friendof O'Hara'sin New York andedited Yugen;McClurewas linkedto the San FranciscoRenaissance,and so on. As Allen says, his groupsare "forthe most partmore historicalthanactual" "canbejustifiedfinally only as a meansto give the readersome and sense of milieu" [xiii]. Why should the publicationof this relatively small anthology,comprisedof fortyin four then largelyunknownpoets, locatedprimarily New York,San Francisco,or, so to speak,"Onthe Road,"become such anhistoricalevent?First,becausein the earlysixties, there really was a dominantpoetic discourse-a discourse, incidentally,that, from our of vantagepointin the nineties,was by no meansthatof the Modernism theearlycentury. In 1960, the Age Demandedthata poem be self-contained,coherent,andunified:thatit present, indirectlyto be sure, a paradox,oblique truth,or special insight, utilizing the devices of irony, concrete imagery, symbolism, and structural economy. The paradigmatic poem was JohnCroweRansom' "TheEquilibrists," perhaps "BellsforJohn s or his Whiteside's Daughter." speakerwas "dramatized"-a persona,whose relationto the The the poem's authorwas "hidden"; normwas show, not tell, as CleanthBrooksandRobert Penn Warrenrepeatedlypointed out in their Understanding Poetry. In this context, it musthave been wholly exhilaratingto pick up TheNew American Poetry andread,in its openingpages, a poem by CharlesOlson called "TheKingfishers" thatbegan "Whatdoes not change/ is the will to change,"andthenshiftedto thenarrative of "He woke, fully clothed, in his bed. He / rememberedonly one thing,the birds ... ," where the line breakcomes after "He."Again, it must have been exhilaratingto reada that with the "stanza," poem called "WhyI Am Not a Painter," begins inconsequentially I am not a painter, I am a poet. Why?I thinkI would ratherbe a painter, butI am not. Well... [FrankO'Hara,DA 243] And of course Allen includedparts 1 and 2 of "Howl,"knownin 1960 only to those who had heardGinsberg'simpassionedreadingsin San Franciscoor New York and to those who got hold of the little City Lights book from LawrenceFerlinghetti. I shall not rehearseyet againthis familiarmaterial.I only wantto remindthe reader of how many now-classic poems firstbecameknown throughDon Allen's anthology,as did such pivotal poetic statements as Olson's "Projective Verse" with its call for BY "COMPOSITION FIELD"andits definitionof the poem as an "energyconstruct" or "energy discharge," a projectile, in which "FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT" and "ONE PERCEPTIONMUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLYLEAD TO A FURTHERPERCEPTION." Never mind thatmost of these prescriptionshad been formulatedmuch earlier by Pound and Williams (whom in Olson now dismissed as the "inferiorpredecessors"'); 1960 they helped clear the air with the force of Olson's own "get on with it, keep moving ... USE USE USE THE PROCESSAT ALL POINTS"[DA 388].
TheNew AmericanPoetry Revised: Familiar Outsiders So popularwas TheNewAmericanPoetrythatby the late seventies,Don Allen was being urgedon all sides to revise it andbringit up to date. Manyof his "New AmericanPoets," afterall, hadnot especially pannedout:especially such of the moreminorSan Francisco BruceBoyd, Ray Bremser,andJamesBroughton,to takeonly poets as Ebbe Borregaard, four. Otherslike JackKerouacand Lew Welch had died prematurely. And therewas, by this time, a demand for more women. The result was The Postmoderns: The New
5. See my "CharlesOlson and the 'InferiorPredecessors': Projective VerseRevisited."
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AmericanPoetryRevised,edited by Allen with the help of the late Olson scholar,editor, and poet George F. Butterick.As againstthe modest prefaceof the earliervolume, The Postmoderns amuchmoreseriousintroduction has written (evidently largelybyButterick),6 and more comprehensivebiographicaland bibliographical materials.Of the forty-four originalpoets, fifteen were dropped,less on the groundsof absolutemerit thanbecause of theirlackof ongoingproduction as in thecase of GilbertSorrentino, shiftto writing a or, fiction ratherthanlyric.' Nine poets were added:in alphabetical order,Diane di Prima, Anselm Hollo, RobertKelly, James Koller,Joanne Kyger, JacksonMac Low, Jerome Rothenberg,Ed Sanders, and Ann Waldman.And the geographicalgroupings were eliminatedin favor of a chronological arrangement. With all this tinkering,the punch of the originalNew AmericanPoetry was largely lost. Here Butterick's new preface is revealing. Opposition to "academicverse" and "formalism" no longer enough: ratherthe new "experimental" is poetry, so the editors in "themainstreamof Emersonand Whitman,Poundand Williams" claim, is squarely [GB 9]. And we read: For some, imagismhas been a chief source of inspiration, others-notably for O 'HaraandAshbery-the dissociationsofpost-symbolistFrenchpoetry. They respondto the limits of industrialismand high technologyoften by a marked spiritualadvanceor deference, an embracingof theprimalenergies of a tribal or communalspirit, side by side with the most stubbornsort of American individualism.... Thereare revolutionaries among them,as well as quiet (but no less deliberate)practitioners. Theirmost commonbond is a spontaneous that utilizationof subjectand technique,aprevailing "instantism" nevertheless does not preclude discursive ponderings and large-canvasedreflections ... Theyare mostof them forward-lookingat a timewhenconceptssuch as entropy and global village have entereddaily life. [GB 9] The difficultyhere,of course, is thateach of the characteristics listed could applyequally well to an entirelydifferentset of poets. Imagismas "inspiration": yes, thatcertainly well, coversthecase of MarkStrandor GalwayKinnell,LouiseGluckandCharlesWright.The "dissociationsof post-symbolist French poetry,"otherwise known as Surrealism,are notablein JamesWright,CharlesSimic, andSylvia Plath.As for the "spiritual" response think of ElizabethBishop and AdrienneRich, Richard to the "limitsof industrialism," Hugo and William Stafford, "tribaland communal energies" (Butterickis evidently referringto the ethnopoeticsof JeromeRothenberg)were turningup in the new black poetry-for example,AudreLorde'sandMichaelHarper's,whichis not includedin The Postmoderns. As for the "prevailing 'instantism,"'cited as the postmoderns' "most commonbond,"surely RobertBly could lay claim to this trait,as mightW. S. Merwin. "Thepassage of twenty years,"claim the editors,"hasbroughtconfirmationof the achievements of the poets represented"[GB 11]. So it had, but as they themselves "Thereare countless goes hand in handwith mainstreaming. recognize, "confirmation" articlesand scholarlydissertations," read,"devotedto [thepoets'] work,translations we of theirwritingsintoforeignlanguages,biographies, (a bibliographies recentcomprehensive bibliographyof FrankO'Hara's writings runs to well over three hundredpages), and publishedinterviews,editions of theircorrespondence secondarywritings"[GB 11]. Indeed, by 1982 those unknownbroadsideand "little mag" poets RobertCreeley and
6. Donald Allen has told me in conversation that this was the case. The anthology is subsequentlycited as GB. 7. The fifteen eliminatedare HelenAdam,EbbeBorregaard,BruceBoyd,RayBremser,James Broughton,Paul Carroll,KirbyDoyle, RichardDuerden,EdwardField,MadelineGleason,Philip Lamantia,EdwardMarshall, Peter Orlovsky,StuartZ. Perkoff and GilbertSorrentino.
RobertDuncan, Allen Ginsbergand Gary Snyder had become nothing if not "respectable."And althoughsome of the "Postmoderns" (say, the difficultJacksonMac Low and the challenging Jerome Rothenberg)continued to be excluded from the mainstream anthologies and the Norton Anthologies of Poetry, others, notablyJohn Ashbery,were winning all the Establishment prizes. betweenthe rawand Indeed,by 1982 therewas no longera clearline of demarcation and the cooked, the oppositional and the established, the "experimental" the "safe." Metrics-as-suchwas no longer a differentiumbecause everyone was writingfree verse. all Keep-It-Movingprojectivismhadlost some of its edge becausepoetasters overtheUS were "keepingit moving" in dozens of little magazines and AmericanPoetry Review. New YorkorSanFranciscoRenaissancepoetry,as in thecase of Ann Then,too, latter-day Waldman,Ed Sanders,and JoanneKyger, no longer seemed especially revolutionary. Language Poetry, after all, had already reared its head-the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E began to appearin 1978, and Ron Silliman remindsus in his preface to In the AmericanTree that it was in the first issue of This (1971) thatRobert Grenier, who cofounded the magazine with Barrett Watten, announced, "I HATE a SPEECH," battlecry that,howevermuchwe now takeit witha grainof salt,"announced a breach-and a new moment in Americanwriting"[IATxv]. If ThePostmodernsthushas somethingof a retroair,theproblemis thatthe "radical" and traditionof "ProjectiveVerse,"which was its point of departure, which was by this as withoutthe further time some thirtyyearsold, was acceptedby its adherents normative becausetheOlsonites debatewhich mighthave thickenedthe plot. Perhapsthis happened were still embattled,seeing that, in the largerworld, "compositionby field" had never Weinberger'sAmerican quitecaughton. The samebelatedness,in anycase, characterizes Poetry Since 1950: Innovatorsand Outsiders. Weinberger'sprefatorynote begins with the (by now) familiardivision into "two camps.""Onthe one side is a rulingpartythatinsists thereis no rulingparty... yet it is a party that clearly exists in the minds of those outside it, who have derided it with adjectives like conventional,establishment,official, academic, and have pitched their to On own poetics as alternatives the prevailinghumdrum. the otherside is an opposition still intensely aware of its outsider status, yet now increasinglydissatisfied with the bannersunderwhich it once rallied:avant-garde,experimental, non-academic,radical" no [EWxi]. Yet, even if these "banners" longerwork,even if "thedistinctionbetweenthe two parties has always been blurred," Weinbergeris neverthelessconvinced that "in... have indeedexisted. Today,in the current populationexplosionof poets,they equities are greaterthanever" [EW xi]. s and But Weinberger' thirty-fivechosen "innovators outsiders," of themfromthe all countriesare US (as in the two Allen anthologies,no poets from otherEnglish-speaking arean odd lot. His two principlesof inclusionare(1) only poemsfirstpublished included) in book form since 1950 and (2) no poets born after World War II. The resulting chronologicallist is as follows: William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, H. D., Charles Reznikoff, Langston Hughes, Lorine Niedecker, Louis Zukofsky, Kenneth Rexroth, George Oppen,CharlesOlson, William Everson,JohnCage, MurielRukeyser,William Bronk,RobertDuncan,JacksonMacLow, Denise Levertov,JackSpicer,PaulBlackburn, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, FrankO'Hara, John Ashbery, NathanielTarn, Gary Snyder, Jerome Rothenberg,David Antin, Amiri Baraka,Clayton Eshleman,Ronald Johnson,RobertKelly, GustafSobin,SusanHowe, ClarkCoolidge,andMichaelPalmer. In a now-notorious essay for American Poetry Review, John Yau argues that Weinbergerhas too readilytakenover the aestheticof EzraPound,an aesthetic,in Yau's words, "whichpromotesassimilationismand imperialism". Thus Pound's Cathay, of with its appropriation Chinaas some sortof exotic Other,is hardlythe ideal yardstick by which to measurethe currentwork of the "innovatorsand outsiders,"some of whom diacritics / fall-winter 1996 109
happento be Chinese,who areproducingpoetryin the US today.Indeed,Yau insists, the Pound-Williams-H. "tradition" used by Weinberger license to createa genealogy D. is as of what are almost exclusively white male poets, especially those whose work displays "anacceptableconfluenceof mythology,geography,history,andthe exoticizingview of the Other"[Yau48]. HadWeinbergerbegun with Gertrude Stein ratherthanthe PoundWilliams-H. D. tradition,Yau argues, he might have appreciated value of Barbara the Guest, RosmarieWaldrop,and Lyn Hejinian.And Yau now goes on to play the "where is X?" game, castigating Weinbergerfor his omission of women and minorities, of homeless poets, of poets who have AIDS, and so on. This objection strikes me as something of a cheap shot. Omission of one sort or anotheris, of course,a definingfeatureof all anthologies:someoneis always going to be left out and someone else is going to be indignantaboutit. But althoughYau plays the of minoritycardrathertoo piously, and althoughhis critiqueof Pound's representation China largely ignores the context in which Cathaywas actuallyproducedand dissemis belatednessof Weinberger' nated,Yauis ontosomethingimportant: namely,thepeculiar Donald Allen's The New AmericanPoetry, afterall, was just that-New. It narrative.8 covered the years 1945-60. The preface paid homage to Pound and Williams, but certainlydidn't include their work. In Weinberger'santhology,on the other hand, the "new" in Allen's sense includes exactly four of the thirty-five poets: Sobin, Howe, Coolidge, and Palmer.The book begins with four Modernistmasters(Pound,Williams, H. D., Hughes)andgoes on to includefourObjectivists(Niedecker,Reznikoff,Zukofsky, Oppen), fourteen poets from The New American Poetry, and three more from The Postmoderns.Thatleaves eight poets who are whatwe mightcall Donald Allen shouldhave-beens, in that they were excluded from the second gathering largely by fluke, These eight are David Antin, belonging by rights to the congeries alreadyrepresented. William Bronk, John Cage, Clayton Eshleman, Ronald Johnson, Kenneth Rexroth, MurielRukeyser,and NathanielTarn. Innovators outsiders?Almost all of the above (Coolidge is an exception) have and with respectedpresses: New Directions,Black Sparrow,North Point,and, in published Rukeyser's case, Norton. And eight of the thirty-five-Niedecker, Olson, Creeley, Duncan,Ginsberg,Levertov,O'Hara,andAshbery-are includedin volume2 of themost recentNortonAnthologyofAmericanLiterature.Indeed,Weinberger' anthologyis best s as understood a "NewAmericanPoetry-Plus," line beingextendedbackward Pound the to and Williams and forwardto Susan Howe. Thereis nothingwrongwith this selection as such,given thatWeinberger originally it publishedit in Spanishfor LatinAmericanconsumption.On the contrary, is wonderful thatan anthologyof such high-caliber(andevidentlylargelyunknownin Spanish)work will be readby a new LatinAmericanaudience.Forthe US reader,however,the selection does pose seriousproblems.Why, to begin with,thebelatednessandbuttressing, need the
8. It is interestingthatJed Rasula,discussingthe Weinberger anthologyin an essaypublished in 1995 but evidentlywrittenbefore 1993-when Hoover and Messerli, not to mentionGizziand as Ganick,broughtout their volumes-holds up Weinberger the voice crying in the wilderness, poised against thephilistine others, especially J. D. McClatchy'sVintageBook of Contemporary American Poetry. Rasula admits that Weinberger"does not ... address the issue of cultural imperialism", but, he suggests, if the choice is between Innovatorsand Outsidersand McClatchy'sVintage Book, Weinberger'scultural "blindness"is regardedas a minorfault. Thereis a cautionarytale here: we mustbeware of makinglarge generalizationsabout such mattersas the state ofpoetry in late twentieth-century consumerculture, for, beforewe knowit, the situationwe describejust mayhave changed.So it is thatbetweenthe writingofRasula's essay and its publicationtwo or threeyears later, languagepoetry and relatedradicalpoetries, long poised on the brinkof recognition,suddenlytookoff Whichis not to say thatthe mainstream poetryscene Rasula describes isn 't still the dominantone.
to begin ananthologyof contemporarypoetry withthe workof thegreatModernists? And a relatedproblem:by whatcriteriaarethe lesser poets in Weinberger' anthology-say, s NathanielTam and RonaldJohnson- superiorto the mainstream-Berryman,Lowell, Jarrell,Bishop-whom Weinbergerdismisses as purveyorsof the "Americanimage of the poet as an overgrowndisturbed child prodigy"[EW 397]? True,Weinberger refersto the "open-ended rather than closed forms" of his "innovators"and talks of their and "musicality". But when he concludes that "in the end, what "simultaneity" united these poets was, in opposition to the prevailing canon, Pound's exhortationto 'Makeit new'" , he is applyingthevery standard DonaldAllen usedthirty-five years earlier. When a critic as sophisticatedas Eliot Weinbergerfalls into this trap-and we will witness the same phenomenonagain and again in the anthologiesof our decade-there must be an explanation.My own sense is thatwe are suffering,in the poeticallyrich and perhaps excessively diverse 1990s, from what I should like to call the malaise of the midcentury. When Donald Allen (or, for that matter, his conservative antagonists) producedtheiranthologiesin 1960, therewas little doubtas to the position of the Great ModernistPrecursors. True,one could quarrelas to the relativemeritsof RobertFrostor of e. e. cummings; true, such forgottenwomen poets as Mina Loy and LauraRiding Jacksonhad not yet been rediscovered.But whose list did not include Eliot and Pound, Stevens andWilliams,MooreandH. D., Gertrude Stein andHartCrane?Add to thesethe the Englishpoet Auden,the FrenchValery,Reverdy,Apollinaire,andCendrars, German Rilke, Trakl,and Brecht,the SpanishLorca,and the Argentinian Neruda,andyou have a prettyfixed notion of what Modernism-in-Poetry would look like. But there has never been this agreementabout the midcentury.We are now as far away fromCharlesOlson as DonaldAllen was fromWilliamsandPound,andyet Olson's status as "majorpoet" is hotly contested.9Louis Zukofsky and his fellow Objectivists, whose earlypoetryis now a good sixty yearsin thepast,arestill not includedin theNorton AnthologyofAmericanLiterature.Criticswho have no quarrelover Poundor Williams cannotagreeon thehypothetical or placeof JohnBerryman ElizabethBishopin thecanon. And what about Allen Ginsberg?A great poet whose million dollar archive was well worththe purchasemadeby StanfordUniversity?The author,in JohnHollander'sview, of that "execrable little book" Howl? Or a poet, now turned cultural icon, whose importancerests on the earlierwork? Those on both sides of these argumentscontinueto be defensive, even thoughthey are battlingnot over who has "madeit New" but over the always-already triedand true andcommodified.Hencethe difficultyof wagingthegood fight, as didlesjeunes of 1914, for a new new poetry. And here I turn to the big anthologies of 1994, Hoover's and Messerli's.
Blockbusters AmericanPoetryandDouglasMesserli's FromtheOtherSide PaulHoover's Postmodern of the Centuryare designed largely for classroom use. Hoover's Norton anthology is 9.Ina review Norton of the ofPaulHoover's Anthology Postmodern Poetryfor NewCriterion,
John Haines dismisses Olson as a poet of "formlessness,""posturing,"and "self-promotion," whose "oddities of phrasing" and "strainingafter effect" are just so much "gibberish". Grantedthat the New Criterionrepresentsthe acme of reactionarydiscourse on poetry,mypoint is thattherewas no parallel in the 1950s and '60s. Therewere, ofcourse, reactionaryjournals then as now, butalthough,say, Williams mayhave beendismissedas rathernegligible in thesejournals, he was not dismissed, as Haines declares Olson to be, as unfitfor inclusion in a comparable anthology.
diacritics / fall-winter 1996
meant to complement (and be used in tandem with), the "regular"or "mainstream" Norton;it even has a teachers'manual.Messerli's aim is to put between two covers the very best of the movement to which he himself belongs, LanguagePoetry,even as he wantsto buttressandcontextualizethatpoetryby relatingit to its sourcesandanalogues. PostmodernAmericanPoetry has 701 pages and 103 poets;From the OtherSide of the Centuryincludes somewhatfewer poets (84) but runsto 1135 pages, which means that its selectionsaremuch morecomprehensivethanwhatwe usuallyfind in anthologies.Is there,then,reallyso muchmoreimportant poetrybeing writtenin Americathantherewas in DonaldAllen's day, when a modest454 pages could cover thirty-eight New American Poets? Ordoes size dependagainon whatwe mightcall B & B, belatednessandbuttressing? Hoover's anthologycovers fortyyears;it begins with CharlesOlson andJohnCage, and its first300 pagesaredevotedto poetryfamiliarfromtheAllen anthology;Messerli'sspan is ten years shorter(1960-90), buthereapproximately pages (one-third the book) 400 of aregiven overto DonaldAllen poets.A NewAmericanPoetry(Messerli'ssubtitle)is thus not-so-new.Still, this hyperinclusionis not withoutits rationale.Hoover's anthology,to begin with,is designedto give us everythingthe otherNortonsdo not.True,thereis some overlap--of which morelater-but whereNortonA (TheNortonAnthologyofAmerican Literature the RichardEllmann-Robert and O'ClairModernPoems: A NortonIntroduction) goes from Robert Lowell, William Stafford,and Gwendolyn Brooks to Howard Nemerov and Amy Clampitt, Anthony Hecht and James Dickey, RichardHugo and MaxineKumin,GalwayKinnell,W. S. Merwin,PhilipLevine,andAdrienneRich,Audre Lorde and June Jordan,Norton B includes a wide variety of "others"from Marjorie Welish and Ann Lauterbach, and Lyn Hejinianand SusanHowe, Rae Armantrout Carla Alice Notley and Eileen Myles, to mention only some of the women poets Harryman, included. Hoover covers almost as many language poets as does Messerli (but in significantly shorter selections); and his anthology includes the communities of St. Mark's in the Bowery in New York, New Langton Street and Intersectionin San Francisco,and a wide varietyof performative poetics and work by minoritypoets. As such,thisanthology,withits usefulbiographical of headnotes,statements poetics, andbibliography a largegap:it is astonishingandencouraging Nortonfelt called fills that uponto do it at all. At the same time, Hoover's rationaleis less thanclear.The adjective postmodern,he explains in his introduction,refers to "the historical period following WorldWarII."But since his anthologyby no meansincludesall theprominent poetsfrom thatperiod,he specifies as follows: [Postmodern]also suggests an experimental approachto composition,as well as a worldviewthatsets itselfapartfrommainstream cultureand thenarcissism, and self-expressiveness of its life in writing. Postmodernist sentimentality, poetryis theavant-garde poetryofour time.... Thisanthologyshows thatavantendures in its resistanceto mainstreamideology; it is the avantgarde poetry garde thatrenewspoetryas a wholethroughnew,butinitiallyshocking,artistic strategies ... Despite their differences, experimentalistsin the postwar period have valuedwriting-as-processover writing-as-product.... Postmodernism decenters authorityand embracespluralism. [PH xxv-xxvii] Shades of Allen and Butterick's The Postmoderns,shadesof Weinberger'sInnovators and Outsiders.The troublewith all this talkof oppositionality "mainstream to ideology" is thatit doesn'tget down to cases. Is AdrienneRich's poetry,certainlynot includedhere, in "mainstream" its ideology? Does it believe in a "centered" authority?Her admirers would certainly say no. On the other side, how "initially shocking" are the "artistic strategies"of, say, Andrei Codrescu's"Paperon Humor,"which begins: 112
Everythingsoundsfunny in a funny magazine. For years now I have published mypoems infunny magazines so that nobody would notice how sad they were. [PH 482] Whateverthe reasonfor the inclusionof this poem-and I will come back to this issueit can hardlybe the shock of the new. The same holds truefor Messerli'spoets. His "four major gatherings"divide up "innovative" American poetry into those groups that emphasize "(1) culturalissues-overlapping ideas aboutmyth, politics, history,place, andreligion;(2) self, social group,urbanlandscape,the visualarts,(3) language,and(4) voice, genre,personae"[DM 32-33]. But Messerliis the firstto admitthat performance, distinctionbetween these gatheringsand that,indeed,his own there is no hard-and-fast is based on "specific aestheticchoices--eclectic as those mightbe" [DM 31anthology What is this aesthetic, an aesthetic that admits Marjorie Welish but not Ann Lauterbach,Diane Ward but not Kathleen Fraser,John Godfrey but not John Yau? Judgingfrom Messerli's own poetryand criticalprose as well as from the books he has publishedover the years for his Sun & Moon Press (andbeforehe foundedthe press,for is his journalsSun & Moon and Li Bas), Messerli's "aesthetic" essentially that of the s s of manifestosandstatements poeticscollectedin BruceAndrews' andCharles Bernstein' L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Book of 1984. But because he had already produced one anthologyof languagepoetriesin 1987, and becausehe evidentlyfelt, as did Hooverand the in Weinberger theirdifferentways, thathe hadto buttress case forthis "newAmerican as the heir to Donald Allen's, he includes the Objectivists,anda good portionof poetry" Black Mountainand San Franciscopoets, as well as the New Yorkpoets of the O'HaraAshberygenerationand a careful selection of theirfollowers. This is, in otherwords, a thesis-anthology:Messerli is in essence saying: "Takeanotherlook at languagepoetry, this time in much fuller measurethan in my earlieranthology,where space constraints were imposedon me by the publisher(New Directions).It reallyis the important poetry today:witnessits derivationfromZukofskyandOppen,O'HaraandAshbery,andso on." Yet for a complex set of reasons (the decline of poetry publishing by the main commercialhouses, the precariousplace of "poetry"in the academic curriculum,the refusalof most critics to engage languagepoetriesin any seriousway even as, paradoxically, some of the poets--Charles Bernstein, Susan Howe, Bob Perelman,Michael Palmer-have been quite successful), Messerli is reluctantto say these things. And so, like both Weinbergerand Hoover in their different ways, Messerli has producedan of "avant-garde" anthologythatincludesanynumber poems-say thoseof JohnAshberythatare not only readily availablefrom mainstream publisherslike Viking or Alfred A. Knopf, but are also anthologized in such "enemy" anthologies as Helen Vendler's Harvard Book of ContemporaryPoetry. "These LacustrineCities," to take just one example, appearsin both. One might conclude from such overlaps that the "great"poets of the period will eventuallybe seen to be those like Ashberyand O'Hara,Olson andDuncan,Creeleyand the Ginsberg,LevertovandSnyder,who so to speak,transcend "themversusus"ideology initiatedby Allen's New AmericanPoetry, poets, let us say, who have made it into the NortonAnthologyofAmericanLiterature.But it is not clearthatthis is the case, given the blatantomission of the Objectivists in the Norton or of RobertCreeley in Vendler's of HarvardBook.At the same time, theperpetuation thecountercanon-where "counter" is too often a markerderived from the sixties ratherthan strenuouslyreconstructeda seems to be perpetuating less thanhappy situation.Let me explain.
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Mainstream/Counterculture Considertwo poems, both of them writtenandpublishedin the midsixties,five years or so afterthe "revolution" TheNew AmericanPoetry. of 1. TheBreathing An absolute patience. Treesstand up to their knees in fog. Thefog slowlyflows uphill. White the grass cobwebs, leaning where deer have lookedfor apples. The woods from brookto where the top of the hills looks over thefog, send up not one bird. So absolute, it is no other than happinessitself a breathing too quiet to hear. 2. Center A birdfills up the streamsidebush with wastefulsong, capsizes waterfall, mill run, and superhighwayto song's improvident center lost in the green bush green answeringbush: wind varies: the noon sun casts mesh refractions on the stream's amber bottom and nothingat all gets, nothinggets caught at all. Each of these poems has twenty very shortlines of free verse; in each, line breaksseem to be determined theprocessof voicing andbreath outlinedby Olsonin "Projective unit by 114
units, as in "Treesstand/ up"in #1 "and"green/ bush Verse,"breakingup grammatical green/ answeringbush"in #2. In both cases, lineationcoupledwith repetitionbringsout latentmeanings,as in line 4 of #l--"fog. The fog"-and lines 18-20 of #2: "andnothing at all gets, / nothing gets / caughtat all." Inboth"TheBreathing" "Center," perspectiveis thatof thepoet,who is never and the or even identified as "I";the impetus, in both cases, is to recorda particular specified momentwhen somethingin naturestandsout and triggersan internalreaction,a kind of epiphany. "The Breathing"tracks the process whereby the poet's immersion in a momentarythick white fog producesa sense of almostmysticalquietude.It begins with "An absolute/ patience,"as the poet stops and is forced to take in the metamorphosis of naturethe fog produces.The treestakeon a life of theirown; they "stand to theirknees up in / fog," which in turnbecomes a river "slowly flow[ing] uphill,"and the "grass"is transformedinto a networkof "white cobwebs." The process that anthropomorphizes natureparadoxicallydehumanizes living creatures:the "deer [who] have looked for apples"aregone, and "notone bird"appearson the hill thatrisesjust above the fogline. "So absolute"is the silence thatthe poet experiencesa momentary lightnessof being, "no otherthan/ happinessitself, a breathing" is, in this epiphany,too quiet to hear. that "Center"embodies a similar paradox. The song of the bird that "fills up the / because it can't be heardabove the roarof the waterfall. streamsidebush"is "wasteful" The latteris seen as "capsized" becausetheeye, tracking bird' movementfromstream the s to bush to the sky above, sees it as moving in reverse,and blendingwith "millrunand / so / superhighway" as to decline from the "song's improvident center"up in the sky. Or rather,thereis no center:the bird is "lost in the green/ bush green/ answeringbush";it disappearsand the wind changes. As for the stream,"thenoon sun"now "casts/ mesh refractions" its amberbottom,but this net of sunrayscan capturenothingin its web: on the bird song is gone. At the "center," poet suggests, there is an enormousabsence. the Both poems, then,use close observationof natural and phenomena thequickchanges these undergo to express the inner self: in "The Breathing,"a momentarysense of quietude and peace within the white blanket of fog, in "Center"a recognition of difference, of the moment-to-moment metamorphosesof natureas birdsongvanishes above the sunnystream,withoutleaving a trace.In theirpositioningof the poet's eye and ear in a specific transitorynaturalsetting, both poems are squarely in the Romantic tradition:the observerreads meanings into the landscapewhich in turnconstructsthe poet's identity in a momentaryunion of subject and object. The images, spare and carefullychosen, are allowed to do the work;in neitherinstancedoes the poet moralize or generalizeas to how one can capturetheradianceof the visible. And thedictionin both cases is hushedandunderstated, assonanceandconsonance(e.g., "Thefog / slowly flows" in #1; "casts,""refractions," "gets"in #2 replacingmore rhetoricaleffects. Whichof these poems is "establishment," which"counterculture"? Breathing" "The is by Denise Levertovand dates from her 1964 collection O Tasteand See! "Center" is A. R. Ammons and comes from Corson's Inlet (1965). Levertov,as we have seen, is by includedin every anthologyI have discussed so far except Messerli's: thatis, TheNew AmericanPoetry, ThePostmoderns and (1982), AmericanPoetrySince 1950: Innovators Outsiders(1993), PostmodernAmerican Poetry(1994), andtheforthcoming RothenbergJoris Poems for the Millennium.'oAmmons appears in none of the above (nor in antholoMesserli's), but he has, over the years, appearedin all the major"mainstream" gies, including Helen Vendler's Harvard Book. And both Ammons and Levertov are
10. Theomissionsuggests to me thatMesserliis adheringto his own veryparticularlanguage poetics more rigorouslythan he cares to admit in his introduction. Evidently,hefor one does see that Levertov'sis hardlythe poetics of the countercurrent has been takento be. it
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accorded almost exactly the same space (twelve pages) in the Norton Anthology of AmericanLiteratureand in the NortonModernPoems (six pages each). How do we explain the discrepancybetweentwo poets, whose work,judging from these representative poems, is by no means all thatdissimilar?Is Levertov'sform more thanAmmons's?Is hersa "processive" Hers mode,his a "productive"? decentered, "open" his centered and unitary?I would suggest that we could go throughany numberof AmmonsandLevertovpoemsandalthoughthereareobvious differences,especiallywith respectto genderdefinitionand politics, one is hardput to find one more"oppositional" thanthe other.The difference-and this happensin canon making(even countercanon making)all the time, has to do with particular literaryand culturalaffiliations. Denise Levertov, let us recall, first came into prominenceas a disciple of William CarlosWilliams. Born and broughtup in England,she had only recentlycome to New Mitchell Goodman,when in 1951 she was taken to meet York with her then-husband Williams,who hadalreadyhada seriousstroke."Ihave neverforgot,"Williamswroteto her in 1957, "how you came to me out of the formalismof English verse. At firstas must have been inevitablealthoughI welcomed you I was not completely convinced,afterall I wasn'tcompletelyconvincedof my own position,I wantedYOU to convinceME"[qtd. in Breslin30]. Levertovwas evidentlyquitewilling to play this role:thepoemsin herfirst American book, Here and Now (1957), out-WilliamsWilliams. "The Innocent,"for example, begins: The cat has his sport and the mouse suffers but the cat is innocent having no image of pain in him  where lineation, language,and tone are markedlyWilliamsesque. to Williamshimself, as JamesE. B. Breslinpointsout,was somewhatpatronizing this attractiveyoung woman poet. In a 1954 letterhe advises her: Youneed a book of your closely chosen work.I think, if you thoughtout and books selectedyourchoice verycarefully,it wouldbe one of themostworthwhile the generation.It wouldhave to be a small book squeezedup to get the gists of alone of whatyou have to say. Perhapsyou will never be able to say whatyou want to say. In that case you makemefeel that the loss will be great. [qtd. in Breslin 32] But whateverWilliams's own reservations,Levertovwas now takenup by Rexrothand by Creeleyand, most important, JamesLaughlin.In 1959, Levertovhadwhatshe herself and calls "thehappinessandhonorof becoming... a New Directionsauthor," shehasbeen one ever since. Indeed, her contractis such that Laughlin will publish any poetry (or poetics) manuscriptshe cares to bringout." Donald Allen's New AmericanPoetry appeared year afterLevertovhadbecome a a New Directions author,and quite naturallyshe was now included as a memberof the Black Mountaingroup,along with Creeley andDuncan.And thereshe has, so to speak, remained,herposition being especially strongbecauseshe is one of the very few women associated with Allen's original groupings.Thus, when Weinbergerand Hoover producedtheiranthologies,Levertovbecame the emblematicpoet of sixties oppositionality this is 11. JamesLaughlin Levertov oneof a smallnumber explained to mein conversation. who authors hasthisprivilege. of NewDirections 116
(as opposed, say, to AdrienneRich or Sylvia Plath),a position she has retainedover the years, even though her work has increasinglymoved towarda linear (and rhetorically conservative)politicalprotestpoetry,towardconfessionalism,and,mostrecently,toward Christiandevotionalpoetry. of Meanwhile,whatof Ammons,who was also a greatadmirer Williams?By the late fifties, Ammons too was writing poems like "JerseyCedars,"whose opening adapts Williams's three-stepline: The wind inclines the cedars and lets snow riding in bow them swaying weepers on the hedgerows of openfields [AACP 57] And CorsonsInlet (1965) has a poem called "WCW"thatgoes like this: I turnedin by the bayshore, and parked, the crosswind hittingme hard side the head, the bay scrappy and working: what a way to read Williams!till a womancame and turned her red dog loose
(andpiss on) the dead horseshoe crabs. [AACP147] But Ammons,a Southerner perhapsnever quite at home in the urbanNortheast,was not a memberof the Williamsor, later,the Olson-Creeleycircle. While Levertovandothers were makingthe pilgrimagefromManhattan Rutherford thefifties, Ammonswas an to in executive vice presidentfor a pharmaceutical and companycalled Friedrich Dimmock, located, in what now seems like a delicious irony,in Millville, New Jersey,not far from In Williams's own terrain. these years, the two poets did meet once or twice, but in 1962 Ammons moved to Ithacato teach at Cornell, where he has remainedto this day. At Cornell,he met HaroldBloom, who was to become one of his most passionateadvocates andto place him firmly in the "visionarycompany"of Emerson,Whitman,andStevens, a visionarycompanythatexcluded Williams, as it excludedPoundandEliot.'2The rest, as they say, is history.
12. In A Map of Misreading,Bloom makes a central distinctionbetween "strongpoets," of whom Stevens is the most importanttwentieth-century exemplar(and whose heirs Ammonsand Ashberyare) and "majorinnovators"like Poundand Williams,"whomaynevertouchstrengthat
all " .
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The Fate ofAnthologizing What lessons, if any, can we derive from this little narrative?First, thatit is no longer possible, as it was for DonaldAllen, to presentreaderswith an anthologyof the or even a definitiveNew AmericanPoetry.In 1960, the scene was muchless complicatedthanit is today:there really was an East Coast establishment,consisting of New Englandand New Yorkpoets (mostly white men) and theirpublishers-the big houses like Harcourt & Straus.Inthiscontext, Brace,Harper Row, W. W. Norton,AlfredA. Knopf,andFarrar, New Directionsor GrovePresswas in itself an antiestablishment marker, publicationby andDon Allen, who hadworkedatNew Directionsbeforehe wentto Groveandfromthere to freelancingin San Francisco,could readilyintroducehis poets as the countercurrent. But by the early eighties, when Allen and ButterickproducedThePostmoderns,all this had changed. For one thing, the communitiesof poets (raw or cooked, academicor formalistor "openform")hadvastly proliferated the old dichotomies and antiacademic, eroded.CreativeWritingprograms were now de rigueurat every college or universityin the land,and fellowships, NEA or otherwise,were available.Poets of the counterculture like Allen GinsbergandRobertCreeleynow held universitychairsandwere selling their for papersto universitylibraries good prices.Then,too, themoreconventionalpoetswere innovation,andvarietiesof free typographic beginningto experimentwithfragmentation, verse. first Moreimportant: eighties witnessedthecomingof the minoritycommunities: the womenandAfrican-Americans, ChicanoandAsian-American NativeAmerican then and poets, gay and lesbian poets, and so on. In theirinception,many of these poetrieswere, ironically,quite conservativeso far as form,rhetoric,and the ontology of the poem were concerned.But counterculture poets and critics couldn't-and still can't-say this out loud because they would have immediatelybeen labeled racist or sexist. And thus the picturehas become increasinglyclouded.Add to this the increasinglyvexing questionof US hegemony, and the problemsare compounded.Why shouldan anthologyof cuttingas and edge poetryin Englishomit Australian New Zealandpoetry?Why Canadian, was the case in Silliman's In the American Tree, and which continues to be the case in Hoover's and Weinberger'santhologies, thoughhappily not in Messerli's?'"Why not poetryin English writtenin Africa and India?And notice thatI haven'teven mentioned the United Kingdom. How should avant-gardeanthologistsrespondto this situation?Here I am of two minds. On the one hand,I am personallydelightedthatin the past two years alone there have been so many anthologies of alternatepoetries, that the readers"out there"have finallybeen forcedto recognizethe existence of RosmarieWaldropandRae Armantrout, Bruce Andrews and Bob Perelman, Steve McCaffery and Nathaniel Mackey. I am gratifiedthat we now have an anthologyof post-language poets (from Oblek) and that Dennis Barone and PeterGanickhave anthologizedforty-five youngeror marginalized poets who were excluded from Ron Silliman's In the American Tree and Messerli's 'Language' Poetries-poets who include Joan Retallack, Leslie Scalapino, Kathleen HankLazer,JohnTaggart, suchyoungerCanadian and Fraser, poetsas Karen avant-garde Mac CormackandJeff Derksen.And I am eagerlylooking forwardto the secondvolume of Poemsfor theMillennium, published,afterall, not by an impoverishedsmall pressbut by the University of CaliforniaPress.
13. From the Other Side of the Century includes five Canadian poets: David Bromige, Nicole Brossard, Christopher Dewdney,SteveMcCaffery,and bp nichol. In the case of Hoover's PostmodernAmerican Poetry, the decision not to include Canadian poets was evidently the publisher's.
At the same time, I wish the anthologies I have been discussing had been less in the or extravagant theirclaims to represent important thecutting-edgepoetryof theday. For in makingsuch claims, the editorsopen themselvesup to the sortof critiquewe have How "radical," alreadywitnessedin thecase of JohnYau's responseto EliotWeinberger. someone is sure to ask, is the ecological lyric of Gary Snyder,really?Is he one of "us" while, say, CharlesSimic is one of "them,"and if so, on what grounds?Oragain, why is Ed Dorn, whose Slinger was somethingof an underground classic for the radicalyoung of the seventies, left out by both WeinbergerandMesserli?If "aesthetic" considerations these choices, the readerhas a right to know what these are. And not just in govern and generalitiesaboutauthorityand hegemony versus experimentation innovation. the best solution in the poetically overpopulated,hyped-upnineties is to Perhaps lower the volume andto admitto a degreeof provisionality.Consider,for example,Peter Gizzi's Exact Change Yearbook 1: 1995. In appearance, deluxe 414-page book No. this is not exactly modest: its elegant and extravagantlayout was executed by a team of productionassistantsandprintedon glossy paperin Hong Kong, andit includes a CD of But readingsby twelve poets from Michael Palmerto Ted Berrigan.'4 despite its stylish (detractorswill say commodified) coffee-table-bookappearance(Michael Palmer,the featuredpoet, is glamorouslypicturedon the book's orange,black,andblue hardcover), the Exact Change Yearbookrepresents what is to my mind a breakthroughin the anthologizingof poetry.'5Let me explain. In their prefatory"Publisher'sNote," Damon Krukowskiand Naomi Yang (who doubles as the book's designer) write thatthey wantedto replacethe now defunct New Directions annualby presenting"a large miscellany of avant-garde work, both contema 'school,' andmorein the spirit poraryandhistorical,chosen less to represent particular of learningwhat'sout there." thisend, thepublishersaskedPeterGizzi "tohelp us find To a range of contemporarywork that draws on the traditionwe publish in our books of Surrealistandotherearly twentieth-century experimentation. To whatcame back we .... addedwork by ExactChangeauthors[Stein,Cage, de Chirico,Aragon],as well as a few other discoveries we were eager to share"[EC 7]. The obvious advantagea yearbookhas over an anthologyis thatit doesn't have to The situationis fluid:if someone's not "in"-well, maybehe or she provide"coverage." will be in Exact ChangeNo. 2. The downside,of course,is that,as a yearbook,the volume can't claim to be "definitive"in any sense and is thereforeunlikelyto be a candidatefor classroomadoptionoreven for the sortof large-scalereviewingtheNorton,Marsilio,and Sun & Moon anthologieshave been receiving.But on balance,thismay notbe such a bad thing.The very notionof the NortonAnthologyof X or Y or the view "fromthe otherside of the century"would seem to go againstourpostmodernwish to avoid whatJohnCage called a "polar situation."Why not, for that matter, given the rapidity with which textbooksnow go in andout of print,"adopt" textbookfor 1996 andanotherthe year one after? Exact Change YearbookNo. 1, in any case, differs from all the "New American Poetries"I have been discussing in thatit discardsthe exclusively nationallabel without, on the other hand, becoming some sort of vapid World Reader.The book juxtaposes avant-garde poets and artistsfrom the US (rangingchronologicallyfrom the Imaginary Elegies of the late Jack Spicer, and Fanny Howe's presentationof extractsfrom John
14. The CD is disappointing, there being no explanation of the eclectic mix of poets represented,many of whom (e.g., Alice Notley, KenwardElmslie) are not in the book at all and some, like the JackSpicer "Imaginary Elegies" (1957) and JohnAshbery's "'TheyDream Onlyof from earlier decades. One could argue that the aim here, as in the America'" (1962), stemming book,is to producetellingjuxtapositions,but inpractice, thesequencefrom MichaelPalmerto Ted Berrigan creates more confusion than insight. 15. An earlier version of this discussion of Exact Changeappearedin Sulfur37.
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Wiener's very moving journal 707 Scott Street, to a "Gallery"of younger, largely unknownpoets like PaulBeatty,ToryDent,andJenniferMoxley) withtheircounterparts abroad-specifically, in Britain,France,Germany,China,Russia-and, closer to home, the Caribbeanand Canada.And as if thesejuxtapositionsweren't enough, we can also read Clark Coolidge's prose poem "Maryor Marie"(a "writingthrough"of Jean-Luc Godard'sfilm Hail Mary) or Susan Howe's 25-partsequence "Chanting the Crystal at in 1975) againstGertrude Stein's Before the Flowers of Friendship Sea"(firstpublished Faded FriendshipFaded, which is printedfor the first time (as JulianaSpahrexplainsin an excellent headnote), together with Stein's source text, Georges Hugnet's Enfance, exactly in the formthey were originallypublishedin thejournalPagany(1930). Oragain, we canreadBarbara the Guest'slecture"Poetry TrueFiction"againstHugoBall's "Grand Hotel Metaphysics,"the "RadioHappenings" JohnCage andMortonFeldmanagainst of ErikSatie's "DriedEmbryos," MichaelPalmer's"Circular or Gates"andhis "Siteof the Poem (An Impromptu [Octavio]Paz)"againstLouis Aragon's"Peasant's for Dream"or the "Fragments" De Chirico. of and Such collaging is not to be confused with what I have called the "buttressing belatedness"of the new blockbuster anthologies.Forthe effect of readingthe contempois rary works in the Yearbookagainst particularDada and Surrealistcounterparts to emphasize difference at least as much as similarity. The editor is not establishing a traditionor line of poets. At the same time, the geographicalrange of the new work presentedgives, at least me, a sense of-forgive the taboo word-transcendence. For instead of the usual anthology wars (who's in, who's out, which editor is sufficiently the offers the most convincing evidence I've multicultural?) Exact Change Yearbook seen to date thatourown radicalpoetriesarenot some kindof local aberration, spawned by a bunch of theory-crazed,left-wing poets in New York and San Francisco, and by perpetrated lesjeunes at Buffalo and otherout-of-theway stations-poetries, so the mainstreamwould have it, to be ignoredas thoroughlyas possible by the variousprizegiving foundationsas well as mostof theelite universitiesincludingmy own. Indeed,what Gizzi's juxtapositionsof US and foreign portfolios suggest is that the attentionto the and materialityof language,to syntacticdisjunction visual constellationso centralto the in Messerli's andHoover'santhologies,andespeciallythe attentionto languagepoetries the reconfigurationof lyric as speaking, once again, not only for the "sensitive"and as individual("Here'swhatI, MarySmith,realizedyesterday, I was weeding "authentic" the garden")butfor the largerculturalandphilosophicalmoment-that all these arenow of characteristic poetriesproducedaroundthe globe. Take Jeff Twitchell's portfolio of the "OriginalChinese Language Group."As Twitchell explains, "Original, in the sense of unique,but becauseof theirinterestin not the earliermeaningsand associationsthatcan be read in the Chinesewrittencharacter. . of the recuperation the originalimpetusof poetryas the play in language"[EC .. So, too, the Poets,"Twitchellexplains,go beyondtheirpredecessors, so-called 20]. The "Original branded"obscure"by the official critics) poets of the late 1970s, of "Misty"(because whom the best known in the US is Bei Dao. The 1988 "Original" Manifesto,reproduced here, comes out strongly against the localism, ethnocentrism,and nationalism that bedeviledCommunistChinauntilquiterecently.Theaimis to makecontactwith"modern Western art,"and the vehicle for such contact, the manifesto declares, is the written "We character,which, comparedto spoken language,is "less pollutedand pre-judged." do not avoid," they declare,"thephrase'wordgames' which alreadyhas arousedgreat We misunderstanding. even like it. "'Game' [yruxi] is a word connotingthe profound, eerie spiritof artandphilosophy"[EC 36]. And the text gives way to the visual image of a largeblackcross whichrepresents intersection the of"swim"(y6u)-to get in touchwith reality-and "play"(xi). Twitchell's portfoliois takenfrom the selection thatappeared the Britishjournal in the Parataxis (1994), editedby the poet DrewMilne.In translation, poems themselves120
by Che Quian-Zi,ZhouYa-Ping,Yi Cun,HuangGan,XianMeng,andHong Liu (theone womanin this group)--don't quitelive upto thatmanifesto.16 "Word games,"in the sense areless commonthanneos of Steve McCaffery' orJoanRetallack's paragrammatic play, of Surrealistimageryand the casting of a sharpeye on the "directtreatment the thing," in the PoundianImagistsense. Just as Pound's fabled "inventionof China"turnsout to have little to do with the classical Chinese models which were his source,so the Original Poets' version of "languagepoetry"is more graphicand precisionistthan, say, Charles s. Bernstein'sor Bob Perelman' Here, for example, is part3 of ZhouYa-Ping's "Vulgar Beauty": An afterbirthis unfolded,taking the shape of an umbrella. The ridges of an umbrellaalong yellow lines. A fetus like a coal cinder has long been reared in it, Lit by me, it will give off light. A white crane, unexpectedlycovered by a black string-net A snake, boundwith a copper wire, body Like a tighteningspring, soft partsflashing. [EC 25] We mustremember thatin the Chinese,as J. H. Prynnenotes in an Afterwordthatis itself a kind of prosepoem, the "iconic deployment[of the language]by strokeplay and contexturemakes a trafficwith the eye workedby a differentground-plan" 39]. At [EC one point, the translators plannedto includesome of the Chinesetext so as to show how the tactile element works, but the Originalsthemselves counteredthis idea because, as ornament;to Prynneputs it, "it would suggest exoticism or extraneouswillow-pattern view of the speech act" [EC 39]. them, we are the exotics, with our credit-card The Russianportfolio,editedby Edward Fosteranddrawnfromtheconferencecalled "The New Freedom,"which Fosterorganizedat the Stevens Instituteof Technology in even in the April 1994, raises similar issues. The work of ArkadiiDragomoshchenko, brilliantlyausteretranslationsof Lyn Hejinian,is, like that of Alexei Parshchikovand AleksandrEremenko,given to hyperboleandextravagant conceit,to manic,gargantuan, and highly sensuous cataloguesof images ratherthanto the abstraction citation we find in its US counterparts. the same time, as locutions like "false, foil-like groundsof At has s gender"suggest,Dragomoshchenko obviouslylearneda lot fromhis translator' own brandof verbal play: I like to provoke the sensation of the thin, undependable, somehowfalse, withinitself a sleepy illusionof the laws of foil-like groundsof gender, bearing in limitsof gravitations gravity,as ifgovernedbymymovements theunconfining and diversionsofspace. Andwhen,in a radianteclipse at theinevitablereunion with earth, at the increasing of masses and the sweetest,strawberry creamlike terrorof children,consciousnesstakeson the transparency compressedtime, of the theoryoffreefall blossoms withfresh oxides on the lips,past whichthe wind carries us.... [Phosphor,EC 145] But perhaps the most surprisingof the portfolios-surprising, that is, for a US audience accustomedto the British anthologies put out by Oxfordor Penguin or even So Bloodaxe, is Tom Raworth's"Anglo-Irish Alternative." used arewe to the "gentility" 16.Ming-Quian a Chinese doctoral candidate Stanford, haspublished at who Ma, essayson SusanHowe,and LynHejinian, whois working further on Carl Rakosi,GeorgeOppen, and translations the "Original" the tells of poetswithJeffTwitchell, methatintheoriginal, poemsin are morenonsyntactic disjunctive in thesetranslations. and than question much diacritics / fall-winter 1996 121
of the contemporary Britishverse we readin GrandStreetor PNReview thatthe opening of the first poem in Raworth'sportfolio,Denise Riley's "Burnt," And then my ears get full of someone's teeth again As someone's tongue as brownandflexible as a young giraffe's rasps all roundsomeone else's story [EC 317] is startlingin its refusal to prettythings up, to get the erotic scene that follows exactly thatl "right."In the headnote,Raworthremarcks what unites his fourteenpoets-among IliassaSequin,KenEdwards, MauriceScully, Lee them,Catherine Walsh,D. S. Marriott, Harwood,Wendy Mulford,Ulli Freer,AnthonyMellors, and Raworthhimself (Prynne being included with the entire "Bandsaroundthe Throat"in the "ThreeChapbooks" section, along with Beverly Dahlen and Susan Howe)-is a "commondistastefor what is still passed off as British poetry ... the Hughes, Heaney, Harrisonaxis-the "New Generation" poets marketedlike sportswear... the terribledrabnessof Larkin(whom I imaginewrote 'Theytuckyou up / yourmumanddad' andthenrodethe wave of a typo)" view of thespeech [EC3 15-16]. Here,as in Prynne'ssatiricdemolitionof the"credit-card act,"one has the sense that,afteryears of DrabAge verse,fun is once again partof the Britishpoetryscene. And thatsense is confirmedby Lee Harwood'ssuperbrenditionof Joseph Cornell's box-making in the set of fifty fragmentscalled "Days and Nights: Accidental Sightings"[EC 331-33]. "Vortex,"the bard said, "is energy!"We are, as the Yearbookmakes abundantly clear, living in a greatand variedmomentfor poetry.RosmarieWaldrop's"Berlin(plus) in of Portfolio,"forexample,is absolutelystartling its presentation EastandWestGerman not always amicablyrelated,but writingan explosive, daring,and sardonic poets, poets lyric that gives our own language poetics a purposelynasty spin, ratherlike puttinga Emergency" George Grosz cartoonon top of a JasperJohns drawing.The "Canadian section, edited by Steve Evans and "Fromthe AnglophoneCaribbean" (editedby Mark McMorris) deserve an essay of their own: the relations of McMorris's poets to a FrancophoneCaribbean poet like Aim6 Cesaire, for example (or, for thatmatter,to the US poetClaytonEshleman)deserveto be studied.But spaceforbidsme to do so here,even as I can't dwell on Cole Swensen's "Ecriture a frangaise," fine selection from the work, somewhat betterknown to US readersthanthe otherpoetries discussed here, of AnneMarie Albiach, EmmanuelHocquard,Claude Royet-Journoud, Dominique Fourcade, and a numberof others-poets closely associated with Michael Palmer and Michael Davidson. Exact Change YearbookNo. 1: 1995 has no mission statement, no textbook introductionof what postmodernpoetry is or isn't. But the juxtapositionsI have been describing-the kinds of Berlin or Beijing poems that are placed side by side with the Michael Palmerfeatureand the threechapbooksof JeremyPrynne,Beverly Dahlen,and Susan Howe-say it all obliquely. Like the Weinberger,Hoover, and Messerli anthologies, which intersectwith Exact Change in so many fruitful ways, Gizzi's anthology implies that, whateverthe local and topical importanceof such celebratedUS poets as AdrienneRich andW. S. Merwin,RobertHass, andEdwardHirsch,the realactiontoday is elsewhere. Many readers,of course, will disagree, but the whole conception of the Yearbookmakes it difficult for them to play the "where is X?" game or to express indignationthatthose includedare not afterall the significantpostmoderns. Does thismaketheExactChangeYearbook heirof DonaldAllen's NewAmerican the Poetry? Not at all, and that's precisely the point. An "Anthologybeginning 'The,'" to
paraphraseZukofsky's lovely title, no longer seems to be what we need. And that, paradoxicallymakes the projectof producingan anthologyall the more challenging.
WORKS CITED Allen, DonaldM., ed. New AmericanPoetry:1945-1960. New York:Grove, 1960. [DA] Allen, Donald M., and George F. Butterick,eds. ThePostmoderns:TheNew American Poetry Revised.New York: Grove, 1982. [GB] and CollectedPoems 1951-1971. New York:Norton, Ammons,A. R. "Center" "WCW." 1972. [AACP] Poets. Barone, Dennis, and Peter Ganick, eds. TheArt of Practice: 45 Contemporary Elmwood, CT: Potes & Poets, 1994. 3d Baym, Nina,et al., eds. TheNortonAnthologyofAmericanLiterature. ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 1989. The editors responsible for the poetry sections are David Kalstoneand William H. Pritchard. Bloom, Harold.A Map of Misreading.New York:Oxford, 1965. Poets. Breslin, JamesE. B., ed. Somethingto Say: WilliamCarlos Williamson Younger New York:New Directions, 1985. 2nd Ellmann,Richard,and RobertO'Clair,eds. ModernPoems:A NortonIntroduction. ed. New York:Norton, 1989. No. Gizzi, Peter,ed. Exact Change Yearbook 1: 1995. Boston:ExactChange;Manchester: Carcanet,1995. [EC] Gizzi, Peter,Connell McGrath,and JulianaSpahr,eds. Writing from the New Coast. 2 vols. Stockbridge,MA: Oblek, 1994. Haines, John. Rev. of Norton Anthologyof PostmodernPoetry, ed. Paul Hoover. New Criterion 13 (June 1995): 68-78. Hoover, Paul, ed. PostmodernAmericanPoetry. New York:Norton, 1994. [PH] and CollectedEarlierPoems, 1940Levertov,Denise. "TheBreathing" "TheInnocent." New York:New Directions, 1979. 60. American Poetry. New York: McClatchy, J. D. The Vintage Book of Contemporary RandomHouse,1990. Messerli, Douglas, ed. From the Other Side of the Century:A New AmericanPoetry, 1960-1990. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1994. [DM] , ed. 'Language'Poetries: An Anthology.New York:New Directions, 1987. Perloff, Marjorie."Afterimages:Revolution of the (Visible) Word." Sulfur 37 (Fall 1995): 236-50. . "Charles Olson andthe 'Inferior Predecessors':ProjectiveVerse Revisited."ELH 40 (1973): 285-306. Rasula,Jed. "TheEmpire'sNew Clothes:AnthologizingAmericanPoetryin the 1990s." AmericanLiteraryHistory. 7.2 (1995): 261-83. Rothenberg,Jerome,and PierreJoris,eds. Poemsfor the Millennium:The Universityof CaliforniaBook of Modernand PostmodernPoetry. Vol. 1: From Fin-de-Siecle to Negritude.Berkeley:U of CaliforniaP, 1995. Silliman, Ron, ed.. In The American Tree: Language, Poetry, Realism. Orono, ME: National PoetryFoundation,1986. [IAT] Weinberger,Eliot, ed. American Poetry since 1950: Innovatorsand Outsiders. New York:Marsilio, 1993. [EW] to Williams,WilliamCarlos.Letter DeniseLevertov.1954.WilliamsCollection.Beinecke Yale University, New Haven, CT. Breslin 32. Library, -. Letterto Denise Levertov. 11 Feb. 1957. WilliamsCollection. Beinecke Library, Yale University,New Haven, CT. Breslin 30. Yau, John. "NeitherUs nor Them."AmericanPoetry Review23.2 (1994): 45-54. diacritics / fall-winter 1996 123
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