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  1. #331
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    This is a book that was brought to my attention and sent to me by James Geary, who has written an introduction to Feinman’s Complete Poems. Being a poet in Vermont, Geary corrupted thought I might be interested. Having been a summer student at Bennington College, and learning that Feinman taught there, also piqued my interest.

    Feinman seems to have been reluctantly public. As Geary writes, “Alvin was reticent about his own work.” It’s tempting to write of him, and myself, that poetry was our first and only love; and to write a good poem, and only that, was reward enough. Our argument was with ourselves—all the work we needed. But I don’t know. In his waning years, Feinman was asked “if he ever thought of starting a family or being a more traditional breadwinner”. “No,” he said, “I thought of nothing but poetry.” He shared his love of poetry with students at Bennington College. I do the same at PoemShape.

    In their introduction to Feinman’s Unpublished Poems, Geary writes:


    Early on in the process, I asked Deborah what Alvin would have thought of what we were doing. After all, he chose not to publish those poems while he was alive. Why should we? ¶ Deborah felt strongly, as I do, that Alvin’s work deserves a much wider audience than it has so far achieved.

    So if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of Alvin Feinman, this is partly the reason.

    Feinman’s poems remind me of the poetry I was reading at The Mountain School (Vershire, Vermont) when it was a full time high shool—poetry of the seventies and early eighties. Feinman was very much a poet of that era. The difference? His poetry’s clarity of language—a language that allows for a complexity of thought and argument when, all too often, poets bed a paucity of thought and argument beneath a veneer of complexity.

    Feinman’s poems are short, compressed, and the collected book amounts to what many modern poets would consider, merely, a substantial first book. Geary, for example, notes that Feinman could spend several classroom sessions on the simplest of poems, this one being by an anonymous 16th century poet:

    Western wind, when will thou blow,
    The small rain down can rain?
    Christ! If my lover were in my arms,
    And I in my bed again!

    Geary writes that “Alvin slowed things down. He wasn’t finished with a poem until every line, every word was scrutinized, every punctuation mark felt.” I too can find more beauty and sympathy in this little poem than in pages and pages of exposition. It seems to me that this love of the briefly and exquisitely spoken informs all of Feinman’s poetry. That is, it’s no coincidence that he could spend days on such a short poem. He probably labored over his own with equal devotion. He was a poet of beautifully crafted brevities.

    But here’s what I like most about Feinman, it’s that though he writes free verse, he writes like a poet. You won’t find the flavorless discourse of a W.S. Merwin—the apotheosis of 2oth century generic poetry.

    This Face of Love

    Nor prospect, promise solely such
    Breathed honey as in breathing
    Clamps the lung and lowers life
    Into this death the very dying
    Meaning of that breath that beats
    To black and beating honey in an air
    Thrown knowledgeless imageless
    Or only the wet hair across her eyes.

    How do I read the poem?—sublimely erotic and as fearless as any of EE Cummings erotic poems. Feinman’s meaning resists analysis, preferring to be understood intuitively like an elusive and allusive chain of haiku.

    Or consider one of his unpublished poems:

    Snow. Tree tranced. O silent
    It would be outside. Dark it would be
    And caged in moonlight. Half afraid,
    To go, and needing to, to know, not
    Knowing what to know, to stand
    And need the words, and need to not
    Need words for white and cold, and far
    And lone, and lovely sighing dark
    Like nothing, like a leg,
    A cheek pleased in the cold,
    A furred eye flaking into light.

    As with This Face of Love, Feinman’s poem resists summarization. The pointillist of poets, look too close and Feinman’s poem vanishes. In poems like these, few because of his modest output, Feinman is at his best and unique among 20th century poets. If Debussy had written poetry, they might sound like Feinman’s—impressionist interludes without opening declarations or concluding summaries.

    I remember wanting to write like this, and did, in my way

    But there are more reasons to recommend Feinman’s poetry. He was never satisfied with the easy adjective or adverb. He seems always looking for new ways to express sense, thought and emotion. In the poem Snow:

    The light snow holds and what
    Its bodyable shape
    Subdues, the gutter of all things
    A virgin unison….

    Bodyable. That’s the kind coinage Shakespeare reveled in, called anthimeria, and one of the most linguistically inventive figures available to poets. The vast majority of contemporary poets never or rarely use it, including Ashbery, but it’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with something other than the run-of-the-mill, generic poet. When Mark Edmundson, in his Harpers Essay “Poetry Slam: Or, The Decline of American Poetry” described being taken by Robert Lowell’s lines in “Waking Early Sunday Morning”—by “the artistry of the lines, by their subtlety and their melancholy grace”—he could have been describing any number of passages from Feinman’s poems.

    For the sun hangs
    ····like a leaden crust
    ········weary of color
    cold and skeletal as desire in an idiot’s palm.

    Neither speech, nor vision…

    For the day crumbles
    ····into ciphers
    words litter the streets like dirty snow…

    ~ For Lucina

    Feinman, despite being sparsely published, was an ambitious poet and yet, that said, he mostly stuck to the conventions of free verse. Criticizing him for that, I suppose, is a bit like criticizing a stone mason for not being a wood worker, but I can’t help wonder what the range of his abilities might have produced. Though Harold Bloom, self-effacing as always, laments there is nothing in the unpublished collection of poems equal to the book “he [Mr. Harold Bloom] helped to foster”, I’m not so sure. You see some effort on Feinman’s part to fit his pointillist, discursive style into something other than free verse:

    Song

    Water buds in the water-tap
    Words bubble up within the mind
    The highways curve across the map
    The light crawls down the blind

    A diamond splinters in the sink
    The nouns digest their verb
    Collision closes like the rose
    Two moons are kissing at the curb.

    This, in its way, reminds me of the little anonymous 16th century poem Feinman so lovingly scrutinized. Feinman must have prized the poem for its contrasting simplicity and power; and I wonder if that’s not the way he would have liked to go, and if an inability to do so curtailed his output? How to reconcile a rich and discursive style with the simplicity of a song? In Feinman’s poem Song, each line is end-stopped. They follow each other the way the refrains of a song might, as if each were its own performance. Though the effect might be deliberate, the poem is a bit child-like and rudimentary. If the imagery remains original, reminding me of Pablo Neruda’s surrealism, the imagistic language seems uneasy with the kind of clarity that made the 16th century poem so powerful.

    Feinman demonstrates a more flexible use of form in other “unpublished” poems:

    …the mocked brain consecrates
    your art—though eyes go blind
    within this woman-will your blaze creates

    as scadent shadows cleave
    the evening all to probe
    cold stone, in vain to re-enact, believe…

    ~ Natura Naturans

    According to a brief internet search, scadent is Romanian, meaning “due to expire”. I love that Feinman used the word. Nothing so typifies the Elizabethan writer and poet as the eagerness to colonize languages, to take the best words and import them, to mix them into their vocabulary the way new spices might be sprinkled in old recipes.

    I hope Feinman’s book finds a broader readership. When so many contemporary poets are writing nothing more than lineated prose, Feinman is the poet for lovers of language and imagery. But he’s also, and strikingly so, our modern Coleridge, a brilliant and formidable mind outstripped by the poetry he imagined writing—a tragic figure, perhaps, whose first works were his last, and whose final unpublished poems were riddles without solutions.

    Alvin Feinman’s collected poems were released August 3rd, 2016.

    upinVermont | September 19th 2016
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

  2. #332
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    The Importance of Poetry
    It's the key to happiness.


    Poetry is an art form that has survived for thousands and thousands of years. We study it in school and we hear quotes from poems scattered thorughout our life. But do we ever truly make meaning of it? Does it even matter? My answer to you is yes it does. Reading poetry and or writing poetry can drastically improve your life, because it has improved mine. In this article I will attempt to articulate why poetry is important to read and also to write

    Reading Poetry

    Poetry is one of the most powerful forms of writing because it takes the English language, a language we believe we know, and transforms it. Suddenly the words do not sound the same or mean the same. The pattern of the sentences sound new and melodious. It is truly another language exclusively for the writer and the reader. No poem can be read in the same way, because the words mean something different to each of us. For this reason, many find poetry and elusive art form. However, the issue in understanding poetry lies in how you read poetry. Reading it logically results in an overall comprehension, rigid and unchanging. However, reading it emotionally allows the nuances and paradoxes to enter our understanding. Anyone who writes poetry can attest, you have to write it with an open heart. So as a reader, we must do the same. All poems are insights into the most intimate inner workings of the writer's mind and soul. To read it coldly and rationally would be shutting the door on the relationship that the writer is attempting to forge with you. Opening your heart to poetry is the only way to get fulfillment from it.

    If you imagine poetry as a journey, you must be willing to trust the writer to guide you. Unwilling readers will never experience every part of the adventure in the same way open minded readers do. The journey may be filled with dead ends and suffering or endless joy and happiness. And still, you go. You pick up the poem, you read, you listen, and you feel.

    In our culture we are experiencing a crisis where American people are the unhappiest people in the world statistically. How do we solve this? I answer: Mindfullness, gratitude, and poetry.

    Writing Poetry

    From a writer’s perspective, writing poetry can be equally elusive as reading poetry. When I first started writing poetry, the advice I always heard was practice, find your voice, keep a journal. I did all these things but still my poems were flat and inert. What was I missing? I poured over poems by Angelou, Shakespeare, Austen, and Wilde looking for a pattern, something I could emulate. This was the problem. I was unwilling to open my heart. I thought poetry could be a mask I could craft. But no matter how beautiful I made it, it would never come to life. It would never fit on another person’s face. It did not eve fit on mine.
    Like Odyssey on Facebook

    My first poem that came alive was written in the dark late at night. I was lying in bed and I felt something stifling me. I could not sleep. I let the thoughts stew in my head until they could not remain locked away forever. I reached for my journal and I wrote.

    Vulnerability was the key. Poetry is about expressing those thoughts and feelings we keep the most suppressed. We must be honest with ourselves about what we feel in order to write anything worth reading. It’s stopping and grabbing a thought by the tail and pulling it up into our conscious mind. It’s trying to express the beauty, and wonder we see. It’s about connecting our hearts and our minds to ourselves and our surroundings. It’s about finding peace.

    Poetry is perhaps a more effective stress relief than working out or meditating because it forces you to express your feelings through words, which helps you not only understand your feelings but also communicate them more effectively. Furthermore, it is a skill that will remain in use for your entire life no matter what you end up doing professionally.

    So reach for the pen, and let go of those things that have been burdening your freedom. Read poetry with your heart and let it affect you. The answer to our questions about the meaning of life, and the purpose of pain were written in poems. They have always been there.
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

  3. #333
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    Default Can Poetry Matter?


    SIZE=5]
    Can Poetry Matter?
    [/SIZE]

    Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world, they can work to make it essential once more

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    American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.

    What makes the situation of contemporary poets particularly surprising is that it comes at a moment of unprecedented expansion for the art. There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines. Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet. There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels. Congress has even instituted the position of poet laureate, as have twenty-five states. One also finds a complex network of public subvention for poets, funded by federal, state, and local agencies, augmented by private support in the form of foundation fellowships, prizes, and subsidized retreats. There has also never before been so much published criticism about contemporary poetry; it fills dozens of literary newsletters and scholarly journals.

    The proliferation of new poetry and poetry programs is astounding by any historical measure. Just under a thousand new collections of verse are published each year, in addition to a myriad of new poems printed in magazines both small and large. No one knows how many poetry readings take place each year, but surely the total must run into the tens of thousands. And there are now about 200 graduate creative-writing programs in the United States, and more than a thousand undergraduate ones. With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.

    But the poetry boom has been a distressingly confined phenomenon. Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities, these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse. Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward. Reputations are made and rewards distributed within the poetry subculture. To adapt Russell Jacoby's definition of contemporary academic renown from The Last Intellectuals, a "famous" poet now means someone famous only to other poets. But there are enough poets to make that local fame relatively meaningful. Not long ago, "only poets read poetry" was meant as damning criticism. Now it is a proven marketing strategy.

    The situation has become a paradox, a Zen riddle of cultural sociology. Over the past half century, as American poetry's specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined. Moreover, the engines that have driven poetry's institutional success—the explosion of academic writing programs, the proliferation of subsidized magazines and presses, the emergence of a creative-writing career track, and the migration of American literary culture to the university—have unwittingly contributed to its disappearance from public view.

    To the average reader, the proposition that poetry's audience has declined may seem self-evident. It is symptomatic of the art's current isolation that within the subculture such notions are often rejected. Like chamber-of-commerce representatives from Parnassus, poetry boosters offer impressive recitations of the numerical growth of publications, programs, and professorships. Given the bullish statistics on poetry's material expansion, how does one demonstrate that its intellectual and spiritual influence has eroded? One cannot easily marshal numbers, but to any candid observer the evidence throughout the world of ideas and letters seems inescapable.

    Daily newspapers no longer review poetry. There is, in fact, little coverage of poetry or poets in the general press. From 1984 until this year the National Book Awards dropped poetry as a category. Leading critics rarely review it. In fact, virtually no one reviews it except other poets. Almost no popular collections of contemporary poetry are available except those, like the Norton Anthology, targeting an academic audience. It seems, in short, as if the large audience that still exists for quality fiction hardly notices poetry. A reader familiar with the novels of Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, or John Barth may not even recognize the names of Gwendolyn Brooks, Gary Snyder, and W. D. Snodgrass.

    One can see a microcosm of poetry's current position by studying its coverage in The New York Times. Virtually never reviewed in the daily edition, new poetry is intermittently discussed in the Sunday Book Review, but almost always in group reviews where three books are briefly considered together. Whereas a new novel or biography is reviewed on or around its publication date, a new collection by an important poet like Donald Hall or David Ignatow might wait up to a year for a notice. Or it might never be reviewed at all. Henry Taylor's The Flying Change was reviewed only after it had won the Pulitzer Prize. Rodney Jones's Transparent Gestures was reviewed months after it had won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Rita Dove's Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas and Beulah was not reviewed by the Times at all.

    Poetry reviewing is no better anywhere else, and generally it is much worse. The New York Times only reflects the opinion that although there is a great deal of poetry around, none of it matters very much to readers, publishers, or advertisers—to anyone, that is, except other poets. For most newspapers and magazines, poetry has become a literary commodity intended less to be read than to be noted with approval. Most editors run poems and poetry reviews the way a prosperous Montana rancher might keep a few buffalo around—not to eat the endangered creatures but to display them for tradition's sake.
    How Poetry Diminished

    Arguments about the decline of poetry's cultural importance are not new. In American letters they date back to the nineteenth century. But the modern debate might be said to have begun in 1934 when Edmund Wilson published the first version of his controversial essay "Is Verse a Dying Technique?" Surveying literary history, Wilson noted that verse's role had grown increasingly narrow since the eighteenth century. In particular, Romanticism's emphasis on intensity made poetry seem so "fleeting and quintessential" that eventually it dwindled into a mainly lyric medium. As verse—which had previously been a popular medium for narrative, satire, drama, even history and scientific speculation—retreated into lyric, prose usurped much of its cultural territory. Truly ambitious writers eventually had no choice but to write in prose. The future of great literature, Wilson speculated, belonged almost entirely to prose.

    Wilson was a capable analyst of literary trends. His skeptical assessment of poetry's place in modern letters has been frequently attacked and qualified over the past half century, but it has never been convincingly dismissed. His argument set the ground rules for all subsequent defenders of contemporary poetry. It also provided the starting point for later iconoclasts, from Delmore Schwartz to Christopher Clausen. The most recent and celebrated of these revisionists is Joseph Epstein, whose mordant 1988 critique "Who Killed Poetry?" first appeared in Commentary and was reprinted in an extravagantly acrimonious symposium in AWP Chronicle (the journal of the Associated Writing Programs). Not coincidentally, Epstein's title pays a double homage to Wilson's essay—first by mimicking the interrogative form of the original title, second by employing its metaphor of death.

    Epstein essentially updated Wilson's argument, but with important differences. Whereas Wilson looked on the decline of poetry's cultural position as a gradual process spanning three centuries, Epstein focused on the past few decades. He contrasted the major achievements of the modernists—the generation of Eliot and Stevens, which led poetry from moribund Romanticism into the twentieth century—with what he felt were the minor accomplishments of the present practitioners. The modernists, Epstein maintained, were artists who worked from a broad cultural vision. Contemporary writers were "poetry professionals," who operated within the closed world of the university. Wilson blamed poetry's plight on historical forces; Epstein indicted the poets themselves and the institutions they had helped create, especially creative-writing programs. A brilliant polemicist, Epstein intended his essay to be incendiary, and it did ignite an explosion of criticism. No recent essay on American poetry has generated so many immediate responses in literary journals. And certainly none has drawn so much violently negative criticism from poets themselves. To date at least thirty writers have responded in print. The poet Henry Taylor published two rebuttals.

    Poets are justifiably sensitive to arguments that poetry has declined in cultural importance, because journalists and reviewers have used such arguments simplistically to declare all contemporary verse irrelevant. Usually the less a critic knows about verse the more readily he or she dismisses it. It is no coincidence, I think, that the two most persuasive essays on poetry's presumed demise were written by outstanding critics of fiction, neither of whom has written extensively about contemporary poetry. It is too soon to judge the accuracy of Epstein's essay, but a literary historian would find Wilson's timing ironic. As Wilson finished his famous essay, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, E. E. Cummings, Robinson Jeffers, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Robert Graves, W. H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Basil Bunting, and others were writing some of their finest poems, which, encompassing history, politics, economics, religion, and philosophy, are among the most culturally inclusive in the history of the language. At the same time, a new generation, which would include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Larkin, Randall Jarrell, Dylan Thomas, A. D. Hope, and others, was just breaking into print. Wilson himself later admitted that the emergence of a versatile and ambitious poet like Auden contradicted several points of his argument. But if Wilson's prophecies were sometimes inaccurate, his sense of poetry's overall situation was depressingly astute. Even if great poetry continues to be written, it has retreated from the center of literary life. Though supported by a loyal coterie, poetry has lost the confidence that it speaks to and for the general culture.
    Inside the Subculture

    One sees evidence of poetry's diminished stature even within the thriving subculture. The established rituals of the poetry world—the readings, small magazines, workshops, and conferences—exhibit a surprising number of self-imposed limitations. Why, for example, does poetry mix so seldom with music, dance, or theater? At most readings the program consists of verse only—and usually only verse by that night's author. Forty years ago, when Dylan Thomas read, he spent half the program reciting other poets' work. Hardly a self-effacing man, he was nevertheless humble before his art. Today most readings are celebrations less of poetry than of the author's ego. No wonder the audience for such events usually consists entirely of poets, would-be poets, and friends of the author.

    Several dozen journals now exist that print only verse. They don't publish literary reviews, just page after page of freshly minted poems. The heart sinks to see so many poems crammed so tightly together, like downcast immigrants in steerage. One can easily miss a radiant poem amid the many lackluster ones. It takes tremendous effort to read these small magazines with openness and attention. Few people bother, generally not even the magazines' contributors. The indifference to poetry in the mass media has created a monster of the opposite kind—journals that love poetry not wisely but too well.

    Until about thirty years ago most poetry appeared in magazines that addressed a nonspecialist audience on a range of subjects. Poetry vied for the reader's interest along with politics, humor, fiction, and reviews—a competition that proved healthy for all the genres. A poem that didn't command the reader's attention wasn't considered much of a poem. Editors chose verse that they felt would appeal to their particular audiences, and the diversity of magazines assured that a variety of poetry appeared. The early Kenyon Review published Robert Lowell's poems next to critical essays and literary reviews. The old New Yorker celebrated Ogden Nash between cartoons and short stories.

    A few general-interest magazines, such as The New Republic and The New Yorker, still publish poetry in every issue, but, significantly, none except The Nation still reviews it regularly. Some poetry appears in the handful of small magazines and quarterlies that consistently discuss a broad cultural agenda with nonspecialist readers, such as The Threepenny Review, The New Criterion, and The Hudson Review. But most poetry is published in journals that address an insular audience of literary professionals, mainly teachers of creative writing and their students. A few of these, such as American Poetry Review and AWP Chronicle, have moderately large circulations. Many more have negligible readerships. But size is not the problem. The problem is their complacency or resignation about existing only in and for a subculture.

    What are the characteristics of a poetry-subculture publication? First, the one subject it addresses is current American literature (supplemented perhaps by a few translations of poets who have already been widely translated). Second, if it prints anything other than poetry, that is usually short fiction. Third, if it runs discursive prose, the essays and reviews are overwhelmingly positive. If it publishes an interview, the tone will be unabashedly reverent toward the author. For these journals critical prose exists not to provide a disinterested perspective on new books but to publicize them. Quite often there are manifest personal connections between the reviewers and the authors they discuss. If occasionally a negative review is published, it will be openly sectarian, rejecting an aesthetic that the magazine has already condemned. The unspoken editorial rule seems to be, Never surprise or annoy the readers; they are, after all, mainly our friends and colleagues.

    By abandoning the hard work of evaluation, the poetry subculture demeans its own art. Since there are too many new poetry collections appearing each year for anyone to evaluate, the reader must rely on the candor and discernment of reviewers to recommend the best books. But the general press has largely abandoned this task, and the specialized press has grown so overprotective of poetry that it is reluctant to make harsh judgments. In his new book, American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity, Robert Bly has accurately described the corrosive effect of this critical boosterism:

    We have an odd situation: although more bad poetry is being published now than ever before in American history, most of the reviews are positive. Critics say, "I never attack what is bad, all that will take care of itself," . . . but the country is full of young poets and readers who are confused by seeing mediocre poetry praised, or never attacked, and who end up doubting their own critical perceptions.

    A clubby feeling also typifies most recent anthologies of contemporary poetry. Although these collections represent themselves as trustworthy guides to the best new poetry, they are not compiled for readers outside the academy. More than one editor has discovered that the best way to get an anthology assigned is to include work by the poets who teach the courses. Compiled in the spirit of congenial opportunism, many of these anthologies give the impression that literary quality is a concept that neither an editor nor a reader should take too seriously.

    The 1985 Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, for example, is not so much a selective literary collection as a comprehensive directory of creative-writing teachers (it even offers a photo of each author). Running nearly 800 pages, the volume presents no fewer than 104 important young poets, virtually all of whom teach creative writing. The editorial principle governing selection seems to have been the fear of leaving out some influential colleague. The book does contain a few strong and original poems, but they are surrounded by so many undistinguished exercises that one wonders if the good work got there by design or simply by random sampling. In the drearier patches one suspects that perhaps the book was never truly meant to be read, only assigned.

    And that is the real issue. The poetry subculture no longer assumes that all published poems will be read. Like their colleagues in other academic departments, poetry professionals must publish, for purposes of both job security and career advancement. The more they publish, the faster they progress. If they do not publish, or wait too long, their economic futures are in grave jeopardy.

    In art, of course, everyone agrees that quality and not quantity matters. Some authors survive on the basis of a single unforgettable poem—Edmund Waller's "Go, Lovely Rose," for example, or Edwin Markham's "The Man With the Hoe," which was made famous by being reprinted in hundreds of newspapers—an unthinkable occurrence today. But bureaucracies, by their very nature, have difficulty measuring something as intangible as literary quality. When institutions evaluate creative artists for employment or promotion, they still must find some seemingly objective means to do so. As the critic Bruce Bawer has observed,

    A poem is, after all, a fragile thing, and its intrinsic worth or lack thereof, is a frighteningly subjective consideration; but fellowship grants, degrees, appointments, and publications are objective facts. They are quantifiable; they can be listed on a resume.

    Poets serious about making careers in institutions understand that the criteria for success are primarily quantitative. They must publish as much as possible as quickly as possible. The slow maturation of genuine creativity looks like laziness to a committee. Wallace Stevens was forty-three when his first book appeared. Robert Frost was thirty-nine. Today these sluggards would be unemployable.

    The proliferation of literary journals and presses over the past thirty years has been a response less to an increased appetite for poetry among the public than to the desperate need of writing teachers for professional validation. Like subsidized farming that grows food no one wants, a poetry industry has been created to serve the interests of the producers and not the consumers. And in the process the integrity of the art has been betrayed. Of course, no poet is allowed to admit this in public. The cultural credibility of the professional poetry establishment depends on maintaining a polite hypocrisy. Millions of dollars in public and private funding are at stake. Luckily, no one outside the subculture cares enough to press the point very far. No Woodward and Bernstein will ever investigate a cover-up by members of the Associated Writing Programs.

    The new poet makes a living not by publishing literary work but by providing specialized educational services. Most likely he or she either works for or aspires to work for a large institution—usually a state-run enterprise, such as a school district, a college, or a university (or lately even a hospital or prison)—teaching others how to write poetry or, on the highest levels, how to teach others how to write poetry.

    To look at the issue in strictly economic terms, most contemporary poets have been alienated from their original cultural function. As Marx maintained and few economists have disputed, changes in a class's economic function eventually transform its values and behavior. In poetry's case, the socioeconomic changes have led to a divided literary culture: the superabundance of poetry within a small class and the impoverishment outside it. One might even say that outside the classroom—where society demands that the two groups interact—poets and the common reader are no longer on speaking terms.

    The divorce of poetry from the educated reader has had another, more pernicious result. Seeing so much mediocre verse not only published but praised, slogging through so many dull anthologies and small magazines, most readers—even sophisticated ones like Joseph Epstein—now assume that no significant new poetry is being written. This public skepticism represents the final isolation of verse as an art form in contemporary society.

    The irony is that this skepticism comes in a period of genuine achievement. Gresham's Law, that bad coinage drives out good, only half applies to current poetry. The sheer mass of mediocrity may have frightened away most readers, but it has not yet driven talented writers from the field. Anyone patient enough to weed through the tangle of contemporary work finds an impressive and diverse range of new poetry. Adrienne Rich, for example, despite her often overbearing polemics, is a major poet by any standard. The best work of Donald Justice, Anthony Hecht, Donald Hall, James Merrill, Louis Simpson, William Stafford, and Richard Wilbur—to mention only writers of the older generation—can hold its own against anything in the national literature. One might also add Sylvia Plath and James Wright, two strong poets of the same generation who died early. America is also a country rich in emigre poetry, as major writers like Czeslaw Milosz, Nina Cassian, Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky, and Thom Gunn demonstrate.

    Without a role in the broader culture, however, talented poets lack the confidence to create public speech. Occasionally a writer links up rewardingly to a social or political movement. Rich, for example, has used feminism to expand the vision of her work. Robert Bly wrote his finest poetry to protest the Vietnam War. His sense of addressing a large and diverse audience added humor, breadth, and humanity to his previously minimal verse. But it is a difficult task to marry the Muse happily to politics. Consequently, most contemporary poets, knowing that they are virtually invisible in the larger culture, focus on the more intimate forms of lyric and meditative verse. (And a few loners, like X. J. Kennedy and John Updike, turn their genius to the critically disreputable demimonde of light verse and children's poetry.) Therefore, although current American poetry has not often excelled in public forms like political or satiric verse, it has nonetheless produced personal poems of unsurpassed beauty and power. Despite its manifest excellence, this new work has not found a public beyond the poetry subculture, because the traditional machinery of transmission—the reliable reviewing, honest criticism, and selective anthologies—has broken down. The audience that once made Frost and Eliot, Cummings and Millay, part of its cultural vision remains out of reach. Today Walt Whitman's challenge "To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too" reads like an indictment.
    From Bohemia to Bureaucracy

    To maintain their activities, subcultures usually require institutions, since the general society does not share their interests. Nudists flock to "nature camps" to express their unfettered life-style. Monks remain in monasteries to protect their austere ideals. As long as poets belonged to a broader class of artists and intellectuals, they centered their lives in urban bohemias, where they maintained a distrustful independence from institutions. Once poets began moving into universities, they abandoned the working-class heterogeneity of Greenwich Village and North Beach for the professional homogeneity of academia.

    At first they existed on the fringes of English departments, which was probably healthy. Without advanced degrees or formal career paths, poets were recognized as special creatures. They were allowed—like aboriginal chieftains visiting an anthropologist's campsite—to behave according to their own laws. But as the demand for creative writing grew, the poet's job expanded from merely literary to administrative duties. At the university's urging, these self-trained writers designed history's first institutional curricula for young poets. Creative writing evolved from occasional courses taught within the English department into its own undergraduate major or graduate-degree program. Writers fashioned their academic specialty in the image of other university studies. As the new writing departments multiplied, the new professionals patterned their infrastructure—job titles, journals, annual conventions, organizations—according to the standards not of urban bohemia but of educational institutions. Out of the professional networks this educational expansion created, the subculture of poetry was born.

    Initially, the multiplication of creative-writing programs must have been a dizzyingly happy affair. Poets who had scraped by in bohemia or had spent their early adulthood fighting the Second World War suddenly secured stable, well-paying jobs. Writers who had never earned much public attention found themselves surrounded by eager students. Poets who had been too poor to travel flew from campus to campus and from conference to conference, to speak before audiences of their peers. As Wilfrid Sheed once described a moment in John Berryman's career, "Through the burgeoning university network, it was suddenly possible to think of oneself as a national poet, even if the nation turned out to consist entirely of English Departments." The bright postwar world promised a renaissance for American poetry.

    In material terms that promise has been fulfilled beyond the dreams of anyone in Berryman's Depression-scarred generation. Poets now occupy niches at every level of academia, from a few sumptuously endowed chairs with six-figure salaries to the more numerous part-time stints that pay roughly the same as Burger King. But even at minimum wage, teaching poetry earns more than writing it ever did. Before the creative-writing boom, being a poet usually meant living in genteel poverty or worse. While the sacrifices poetry demanded caused much individual suffering, the rigors of serving Milton's "thankless Muse" also delivered the collective cultural benefit of frightening away all but committed artists.

    Today poetry is a modestly upwardly mobile, middle-class profession—not as lucrative as waste management or dermatology but several big steps above the squalor of bohemia. Only a philistine would romanticize the blissfully banished artistic poverty of yesteryear. But a clear-eyed observer must also recognize that by opening the poet's trade to all applicants and by employing writers to do something other than write, institutions have changed the social and economic identity of the poet from artist to educator. In social terms the identification of poet with teacher is now complete. The first question one poet now asks another upon being introduced is "Where do you teach?" The problem is not that poets teach. The campus is not a bad place for a poet to work. It's just a bad place for all poets to work. Society suffers by losing the imagination and vitality that poets brought to public culture. Poetry suffers when literary standards are forced to conform with institutional ones.

    Even within the university contemporary poetry now exists as a subculture. The teaching poet finds that he or she has little in common with academic colleagues. The academic study of literature over the past twenty-five years has veered off in a theoretical direction with which most imaginative writers have little sympathy or familiarity. Thirty years ago detractors of creative-writing programs predicted that poets in universities would become enmeshed in literary criticism and scholarship. This prophecy has proved spectacularly wrong. Poets have created enclaves in the academy almost entirely separate from their critical colleagues. They write less criticism than they did before entering the academy. Pressed to keep up with the plethora of new poetry, small magazines, professional journals, and anthologies, they are frequently also less well read in the literature of the past. Their peers in the English department generally read less contemporary poetry and more literary theory. In many departments writers and literary theorists are openly at war. Bringing the two groups under one roof has paradoxically made each more territorial. Isolated even within the university, the poet, whose true subject is the whole of human existence, has reluctantly become an educational specialist.
    When People Paid Attention

    To understand how radically the situation of the American poet has changed, one need only compare today with fifty years ago. In 1940, with the notable exception of Robert Frost, few poets were working in colleges unless, like Mark Van Doren and Yvor Winters, they taught traditional academic subjects. The only creative-writing program was an experiment begun a few years earlier at the University of Iowa. The modernists exemplified the options that poets had for making a living. They could enter middle-class professions, as had T. S. Eliot (a banker turned publisher), Wallace Stevens (a corporate insurance lawyer) and William Carlos Williams (a pediatrician). Or they could live in bohemia supporting themselves as artists, as, in different ways, did Ezra Pound, E. E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore. If the city proved unattractive, they could, like Robinson Jeffers, scrape by in a rural arts colony like Carmel, California. Or they might become farmers, like the young Robert Frost.

    Most often poets supported themselves as editors or reviewers, actively taking part in the artistic and intellectual life of their time. Archibald MacLeish was an editor and writer at Fortune. James Agee reviewed movies for Time and The Nation, and eventually wrote screenplays for Hollywood. Randall Jarrell reviewed books. Weldon Kees wrote about jazz and modern art. Delmore Schwartz reviewed everything. Even poets who eventually took up academic careers spent intellectually broadening apprenticeships in literary journalism. The young Robert Hayden covered music and theater for Michigan's black press. R. P. Blackmur, who never completed high school, reviewed books for Hound & Horn before teaching at Princeton. Occasionally a poet might supplement his or her income by giving a reading or lecture, but these occasions were rare. Robinson Jeffers, for example, was fifty-four when he gave his first public reading. For most poets, the sustaining medium was not the classroom or the podium but the written word.

    If poets supported themselves by writing, it was mainly by writing prose. Paying outlets for poetry were limited. Beyond a few national magazines, which generally preferred light verse or political satire, there were at any one time only a few dozen journals that published a significant amount of poetry. The emergence of a serious new quarterly like Partisan Review or Furioso was an event of real importance, and a small but dedicated audience eagerly looked forward to each issue. If people could not afford to buy copies, they borrowed them or visited public libraries. As for books of poetry if one excludes vanity-press editions, fewer than a hundred new titles were published each year. But the books that did appear were reviewed in daily newspapers as well as magazines and quarterlies. A focused monthly like Poetry could cover virtually the entire field.

    Reviewers fifty years ago were by today's standards extraordinarily tough. They said exactly what they thought, even about their most influential contemporaries. Listen, for example, to Randall Jarrell's description of a book by the famous anthologist Oscar Williams: it "gave the impression of having been written on a typewriter by a typewriter." That remark kept Jarrell out of subsequent Williams anthologies, but he did not hesitate to publish it. Or consider Jarrell's assessment of Archibald MacLeish's public poem America Was Promises: it "might have been devised by a YMCA secretary at a home for the mentally deficient." Or read Weldon Kees's one-sentence review of Muriel Rukeyser's Wake Island—"There's one thing you can say about Muriel: she's not lazy." But these same reviewers could write generously about poets they admired, as Jarrell did about Elizabeth Bishop, and Kees about Wallace Stevens. Their praise mattered, because readers knew it did not come lightly.

    The reviewers of fifty years ago knew that their primary loyalty must lie not with their fellow poets or publishers but with the reader. Consequently they reported their reactions with scrupulous honesty even when their opinions might lose them literary allies and writing assignments. In discussing new poetry they addressed a wide community of educated readers. Without talking down to their audience, they cultivated a public idiom. Prizing clarity and accessibility they avoided specialist jargon and pedantic displays of scholarship. They also tried, as serious intellectuals should but specialists often do not, to relate what was happening in poetry to social, political, and artistic trends. They charged modern poetry with cultural importance and made it the focal point of their intellectual discourse.

    Ill-paid, overworked, and underappreciated, this argumentative group of "practical" critics, all of them poets, accomplished remarkable things. They defined the canon of modernist poetry, established methods to analyze verse of extraordinary difficulty, and identified the new mid-century generation of American poets (Lowell, Roethke, Bishop, Berryman, and others) that still dominates our literary consciousness. Whatever one thinks of their literary canon or critical principles, one must admire the intellectual energy and sheer determination of these critics, who developed as writers without grants or permanent faculty positions, often while working precariously on free-lance assignments. They represent a high point in American intellectual life. Even fifty years later their names still command more authority than those of all but a few contemporary critics. A short roll call would include John Berryman, R. P. Blackmur, Louise Bogan, John Ciardi, Horace Gregory, Langston Hughes, Randall Jarrell, Weldon Kees, Kenneth Rexroth, Delmore Schwartz, Karl Shapiro, Allen Tate, and Yvor Winters. Although contemporary poetry has its boosters and publicists, it has no group of comparable dedication and talent able to address the general literary community.

    Like all genuine intellectuals, these critics were visionary. They believed that if modern poets did not have an audience, they could create one. And gradually they did. It was not a mass audience; few American poets of any period have enjoyed a direct relationship with the general public. It was a cross-section of artists and intellectuals, including scientists, clergymen, educators, lawyers, and, of course, writers. This group constituted a literary intelligentsia, made up mainly of nonspecialists, who took poetry as seriously as fiction and drama. Recently Donald Hall and other critics have questioned the size of this audience by citing the low average sales of a volume of new verse by an established poet during the period (usually under a thousand copies). But these skeptics do not understand how poetry was read then.

    America was a smaller, less affluent country in 1940, with about half its current population and one sixth its current real GNP. In those pre-paperback days of the late Depression neither readers nor libraries could afford to buy as many books as they do today. Nor was there a large captive audience of creative-writing students who bought books of contemporary poetry for classroom use. Readers usually bought poetry in two forms—in an occasional Collected Poems by a leading author, or in anthologies. The comprehensive collections of writers like Frost, Eliot, Auden, Jeffers, Wylie, and Millay sold very well, were frequently reprinted, and stayed perpetually in print. (Today most Collected Poems disappear after one printing.) Occasionally a book of new poems would capture the public's fancy. Edwin Arlington Robinson's Tristram (1927) became a Literary Guild selection. Frost's A Further Range sold 50,000 copies as a 1936 Book-of-the-Month Club selection. But people knew poetry mainly from anthologies, which they not only bought but also read, with curiosity and attention.

    Louis Untermeyer's Modern American Poetry, first published in 1919, was frequently revised to keep it up to date and was a perennial best seller. My 1942 edition, for example, had been reprinted five times by 1945. My edition of Oscar Williams's A Pocket Book of Modern Poetry had been reprinted nineteen times in fourteen years. Untermeyer and Williams prided themselves on keeping their anthologies broad-based and timely. They tried to represent the best of what was being published. Each edition added new poems and poets and dropped older ones. The public appreciated their efforts. Poetry anthologies were an indispensable part of any serious reader's library. Random House's popular Modern Library series, for example, included not one but two anthologies—Selden Rodman's A New Anthology of Modern Poetry and Conrad Aiken's Twentieth Century American Poetry. All these collections were read and reread by a diverse public. Favorite poems were memorized. Difficult authors like Eliot and Thomas were actively discussed and debated. Poetry mattered outside the classroom.

    Today these general readers constitute the audience that poetry has lost. Limited by intelligence and curiosity this heterogeneous group cuts across lines of race, class, age, and occupation. Representing our cultural intelligentsia, they are the people who support the arts—who buy classical and jazz records; who attend foreign films and serious theater, opera, symphony, and dance; who read quality fiction and biographies; who listen to public radio and subscribe to the best journals. (They are also often the parents who read poetry to their children and remember, once upon a time in college or high school or kindergarten, liking it themselves.) No one knows the size of this community, but even if one accepts the conservative estimate that it accounts for only two percent of the U.S. population, it still represents a potential audience of almost five million readers. However healthy poetry may appear within its professional subculture, it has lost this larger audience, who represent poetry's bridge to the general culture.
    The Need for Poetry

    But why should anyone but a poet care about the problems of American poetry? What possible relevance does this archaic art form have to contemporary society? In a better world, poetry would need no justification beyond the sheer splendor of its own existence. As Wallace Stevens once observed, "The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man's happiness." Children know this essential truth when they ask to hear their favorite nursery rhymes again and again. Aesthetic pleasure needs no justification, because a life without such pleasure is one not worth living.

    But the rest of society has mostly forgotten the value of poetry. To the general reader, discussions about the state of poetry sound like the debating of foreign politics by emigres in a seedy cafe. Or, as Cyril Connolly more bitterly described it, "Poets arguing about modern poetry: jackals snarling over a dried-up well." Anyone who hopes to broaden poetry's audience—critic, teacher, librarian, poet, or lonely literary amateur—faces a daunting challenge. How does one persuade justly skeptical readers, in terms they can understand and appreciate, that poetry still matters?

    A passage in William Carlos Williams's "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" provides a possible starting point. Written toward the end of the author's life, after he had been partly paralyzed by a stroke, the lines sum up the hard lessons about poetry and audience that Williams had learned over years of dedication to both poetry and medicine. He wrote,

    My heart rouses
    thinking to bring you news
    of something
    that concerns you
    and concerns many men. Look at
    what passes for the new.
    You will not find it there but in
    despised poems.
    It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there.

    Williams understood poetry's human value but had no illusions about the difficulties his contemporaries faced in trying to engage the audience that needed the art most desperately. To regain poetry's readership one must begin by meeting Williams's challenge to find what "concerns many men," not simply what concerns poets.

    There are at least two reasons why the situation of poetry matters to the entire intellectual community. The first involves the role of language in a free society. Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it—be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters. The public responsibility of poetry has been pointed out repeatedly by modern writers. Even the archsymbolist Stephane Mallarme praised the poet's central mission to "purify the words of the tribe." And Ezra Pound warned that

    Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clean. It doesn't matter whether a good writer wants to be useful, or whether the bad writer wants to do harm. . . .

    If a nation's literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.

    Or, as George Orwell wrote after the Second World War, "One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language. . . ."

    Poetry is not the entire solution to keeping the nation's language clear and honest, but one is hard pressed to imagine a country's citizens improving the health of its language while abandoning poetry.

    The second reason why the situation of poetry matters to all intellectuals is that poetry is not alone among the arts in its marginal position. If the audience for poetry has declined into a subculture of specialists, so too have the audiences for most contemporary art forms, from serious drama to jazz. The unprecedented fragmentation of American high culture during the past half century has left most arts in isolation from one another as well as from the general audience. Contemporary classical music scarcely exists as a living art outside university departments and conservatories. Jazz, which once commanded a broad popular audience, has become the semi-private domain of aficionados and musicians. (Today even influential jazz innovators cannot find places to perform in many metropolitan centers—and for an improvisatory art the inability to perform is a crippling liability.) Much serious drama is now confined to the margins of American theater, where it is seen only by actors, aspiring actors, playwrights, and a few diehard fans. Only the visual arts, perhaps because of their financial glamour and upper-class support, have largely escaped the decline in public attention.
    How Poets Can Be Heard

    The most serious question for the future of American culture is whether the arts will continue to exist in isolation and decline into subsidized academic specialties or whether some possibility of rapprochement with the educated public remains. Each of the arts must face the challenge separately, and no art faces more towering obstacles than poetry. Given the decline of literacy, the proliferation of other media, the crisis in humanities education, the collapse of critical standards, and the sheer weight of past failures, how can poets possibly succeed in being heard? Wouldn't it take a miracle?

    Toward the end of her life Marianne Moore wrote a short poem called "O To Be a Dragon." This poem recalled the biblical dream in which the Lord appeared to King Solomon and said, "Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon wished for a wise and understanding heart. Moore's wish is harder to summarize. Her poem reads,

    If I, like Solomon, . . .
    could have my wish—

    my wish . . . O to be a dragon,
    a symbol of the power of Heaven—of silkworm
    size or immense; at times invisible.
    Felicitous phenomenon!

    Moore got her wish. She became, as all genuine poets do, "a symbol of the power of Heaven." She succeeded in what Robert Frost called "the utmost of ambition"—namely "to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." She is permanently part of the "felicitous phenomenon" of American literature.

    So wishes can come true—even extravagant ones. If I, like Marianne Moore, could have my wish, and I, like Solomon, could have the self-control not to wish for myself, I would wish that poetry could again become a part of American public culture. I don't think this is impossible. All it would require is that poets and poetry teachers take more responsibility for bringing their art to the public. I will close with six modest proposals for how this dream might come true.

    1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people's work—preferably poems they admire by writers they do not know personally. Readings should be celebrations of poetry in general, not merely of the featured author's work.

    2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only. Mix poetry with the other arts, especially music. Plan evenings honoring dead or foreign writers. Combine short critical lectures with poetry performances. Such combinations would attract an audience from beyond the poetry world without compromising quality.

    3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively. Poets must recapture the attention of the broader intellectual community by writing for nonspecialist publications. They must also avoid the jargon of contemporary academic criticism and write in a public idiom. Finally, poets must regain the reader's trust by candidly admitting what they don't like as well as promoting what they like. Professional courtesy has no place in literary journalism.

    4. Poets who compile anthologies—or even reading lists—should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire. Anthologies are poetry's gateway to the general culture. They should not be used as pork barrels for the creative-writing trade. An art expands its audience by presenting masterpieces, not mediocrity. Anthologies should be compiled to move, delight, and instruct readers, not to flatter the writing teachers who assign books. Poet-anthologists must never trade the Muse's property for professional favors.

    5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance. Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited, and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual excitement of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry's future.

    6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art's audience. Poetry is an aural medium, and thus ideally suited to radio. A little imaginative programming at the hundreds of college and public-supported radio stations could bring poetry to millions of listeners. Some programming exists, but it is stuck mostly in the standard subculture format of living poets' reading their own work. Mixing poetry with music on classical and jazz stations or creating innovative talk-radio formats could re-establish a direct relationship between poetry and the general audience.

    The history of art tells the same story over and over. As art forms develop, they establish conventions that guide creation, performance, instruction, even analysis. But eventually these conventions grow stale. They begin to stand between the art and its audience. Although much wonderful poetry is being written, the American poetry establishment is locked into a series of exhausted conventions—outmoded ways of presenting, discussing, editing, and teaching poetry. Educational institutions have codified them into a stifling bureaucratic etiquette that enervates the art. These conventions may once have made sense, but today they imprison poetry in an intellectual ghetto.

    It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the dessicated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyr-Ziu Saxnot View Post
    SIZE=5]
    Can Poetry Matter?
    [/SIZE]

    Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world, they can work to make it essential once more

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    American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.

    What makes the situation of contemporary poets particularly surprising is that it comes at a moment of unprecedented expansion for the art. There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines. Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet. There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels. Congress has even instituted the position of poet laureate, as have twenty-five states. One also finds a complex network of public subvention for poets, funded by federal, state, and local agencies, augmented by private support in the form of foundation fellowships, prizes, and subsidized retreats. There has also never before been so much published criticism about contemporary poetry; it fills dozens of literary newsletters and scholarly journals.

    The proliferation of new poetry and poetry programs is astounding by any historical measure. Just under a thousand new collections of verse are published each year, in addition to a myriad of new poems printed in magazines both small and large. No one knows how many poetry readings take place each year, but surely the total must run into the tens of thousands. And there are now about 200 graduate creative-writing programs in the United States, and more than a thousand undergraduate ones. With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.

    But the poetry boom has been a distressingly confined phenomenon. Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities, these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse. Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward. Reputations are made and rewards distributed within the poetry subculture. To adapt Russell Jacoby's definition of contemporary academic renown from The Last Intellectuals, a "famous" poet now means someone famous only to other poets. But there are enough poets to make that local fame relatively meaningful. Not long ago, "only poets read poetry" was meant as damning criticism. Now it is a proven marketing strategy.

    The situation has become a paradox, a Zen riddle of cultural sociology. Over the past half century, as American poetry's specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined. Moreover, the engines that have driven poetry's institutional success—the explosion of academic writing programs, the proliferation of subsidized magazines and presses, the emergence of a creative-writing career track, and the migration of American literary culture to the university—have unwittingly contributed to its disappearance from public view.

    To the average reader, the proposition that poetry's audience has declined may seem self-evident. It is symptomatic of the art's current isolation that within the subculture such notions are often rejected. Like chamber-of-commerce representatives from Parnassus, poetry boosters offer impressive recitations of the numerical growth of publications, programs, and professorships. Given the bullish statistics on poetry's material expansion, how does one demonstrate that its intellectual and spiritual influence has eroded? One cannot easily marshal numbers, but to any candid observer the evidence throughout the world of ideas and letters seems inescapable.

    Daily newspapers no longer review poetry. There is, in fact, little coverage of poetry or poets in the general press. From 1984 until this year the National Book Awards dropped poetry as a category. Leading critics rarely review it. In fact, virtually no one reviews it except other poets. Almost no popular collections of contemporary poetry are available except those, like the Norton Anthology, targeting an academic audience. It seems, in short, as if the large audience that still exists for quality fiction hardly notices poetry. A reader familiar with the novels of Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, or John Barth may not even recognize the names of Gwendolyn Brooks, Gary Snyder, and W. D. Snodgrass.

    One can see a microcosm of poetry's current position by studying its coverage in The New York Times. Virtually never reviewed in the daily edition, new poetry is intermittently discussed in the Sunday Book Review, but almost always in group reviews where three books are briefly considered together. Whereas a new novel or biography is reviewed on or around its publication date, a new collection by an important poet like Donald Hall or David Ignatow might wait up to a year for a notice. Or it might never be reviewed at all. Henry Taylor's The Flying Change was reviewed only after it had won the Pulitzer Prize. Rodney Jones's Transparent Gestures was reviewed months after it had won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Rita Dove's Pulitzer Prize-winning Thomas and Beulah was not reviewed by the Times at all.

    Poetry reviewing is no better anywhere else, and generally it is much worse. The New York Times only reflects the opinion that although there is a great deal of poetry around, none of it matters very much to readers, publishers, or advertisers—to anyone, that is, except other poets. For most newspapers and magazines, poetry has become a literary commodity intended less to be read than to be noted with approval. Most editors run poems and poetry reviews the way a prosperous Montana rancher might keep a few buffalo around—not to eat the endangered creatures but to display them for tradition's sake.
    How Poetry Diminished

    Arguments about the decline of poetry's cultural importance are not new. In American letters they date back to the nineteenth century. But the modern debate might be said to have begun in 1934 when Edmund Wilson published the first version of his controversial essay "Is Verse a Dying Technique?" Surveying literary history, Wilson noted that verse's role had grown increasingly narrow since the eighteenth century. In particular, Romanticism's emphasis on intensity made poetry seem so "fleeting and quintessential" that eventually it dwindled into a mainly lyric medium. As verse—which had previously been a popular medium for narrative, satire, drama, even history and scientific speculation—retreated into lyric, prose usurped much of its cultural territory. Truly ambitious writers eventually had no choice but to write in prose. The future of great literature, Wilson speculated, belonged almost entirely to prose.

    Wilson was a capable analyst of literary trends. His skeptical assessment of poetry's place in modern letters has been frequently attacked and qualified over the past half century, but it has never been convincingly dismissed. His argument set the ground rules for all subsequent defenders of contemporary poetry. It also provided the starting point for later iconoclasts, from Delmore Schwartz to Christopher Clausen. The most recent and celebrated of these revisionists is Joseph Epstein, whose mordant 1988 critique "Who Killed Poetry?" first appeared in Commentary and was reprinted in an extravagantly acrimonious symposium in AWP Chronicle (the journal of the Associated Writing Programs). Not coincidentally, Epstein's title pays a double homage to Wilson's essay—first by mimicking the interrogative form of the original title, second by employing its metaphor of death.

    Epstein essentially updated Wilson's argument, but with important differences. Whereas Wilson looked on the decline of poetry's cultural position as a gradual process spanning three centuries, Epstein focused on the past few decades. He contrasted the major achievements of the modernists—the generation of Eliot and Stevens, which led poetry from moribund Romanticism into the twentieth century—with what he felt were the minor accomplishments of the present practitioners. The modernists, Epstein maintained, were artists who worked from a broad cultural vision. Contemporary writers were "poetry professionals," who operated within the closed world of the university. Wilson blamed poetry's plight on historical forces; Epstein indicted the poets themselves and the institutions they had helped create, especially creative-writing programs. A brilliant polemicist, Epstein intended his essay to be incendiary, and it did ignite an explosion of criticism. No recent essay on American poetry has generated so many immediate responses in literary journals. And certainly none has drawn so much violently negative criticism from poets themselves. To date at least thirty writers have responded in print. The poet Henry Taylor published two rebuttals.

    Poets are justifiably sensitive to arguments that poetry has declined in cultural importance, because journalists and reviewers have used such arguments simplistically to declare all contemporary verse irrelevant. Usually the less a critic knows about verse the more readily he or she dismisses it. It is no coincidence, I think, that the two most persuasive essays on poetry's presumed demise were written by outstanding critics of fiction, neither of whom has written extensively about contemporary poetry. It is too soon to judge the accuracy of Epstein's essay, but a literary historian would find Wilson's timing ironic. As Wilson finished his famous essay, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, E. E. Cummings, Robinson Jeffers, H. D. (Hilda Doolittle), Robert Graves, W. H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Basil Bunting, and others were writing some of their finest poems, which, encompassing history, politics, economics, religion, and philosophy, are among the most culturally inclusive in the history of the language. At the same time, a new generation, which would include Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Larkin, Randall Jarrell, Dylan Thomas, A. D. Hope, and others, was just breaking into print. Wilson himself later admitted that the emergence of a versatile and ambitious poet like Auden contradicted several points of his argument. But if Wilson's prophecies were sometimes inaccurate, his sense of poetry's overall situation was depressingly astute. Even if great poetry continues to be written, it has retreated from the center of literary life. Though supported by a loyal coterie, poetry has lost the confidence that it speaks to and for the general culture.
    Inside the Subculture

    One sees evidence of poetry's diminished stature even within the thriving subculture. The established rituals of the poetry world—the readings, small magazines, workshops, and conferences—exhibit a surprising number of self-imposed limitations. Why, for example, does poetry mix so seldom with music, dance, or theater? At most readings the program consists of verse only—and usually only verse by that night's author. Forty years ago, when Dylan Thomas read, he spent half the program reciting other poets' work. Hardly a self-effacing man, he was nevertheless humble before his art. Today most readings are celebrations less of poetry than of the author's ego. No wonder the audience for such events usually consists entirely of poets, would-be poets, and friends of the author.

    Several dozen journals now exist that print only verse. They don't publish literary reviews, just page after page of freshly minted poems. The heart sinks to see so many poems crammed so tightly together, like downcast immigrants in steerage. One can easily miss a radiant poem amid the many lackluster ones. It takes tremendous effort to read these small magazines with openness and attention. Few people bother, generally not even the magazines' contributors. The indifference to poetry in the mass media has created a monster of the opposite kind—journals that love poetry not wisely but too well.

    Until about thirty years ago most poetry appeared in magazines that addressed a nonspecialist audience on a range of subjects. Poetry vied for the reader's interest along with politics, humor, fiction, and reviews—a competition that proved healthy for all the genres. A poem that didn't command the reader's attention wasn't considered much of a poem. Editors chose verse that they felt would appeal to their particular audiences, and the diversity of magazines assured that a variety of poetry appeared. The early Kenyon Review published Robert Lowell's poems next to critical essays and literary reviews. The old New Yorker celebrated Ogden Nash between cartoons and short stories.

    A few general-interest magazines, such as The New Republic and The New Yorker, still publish poetry in every issue, but, significantly, none except The Nation still reviews it regularly. Some poetry appears in the handful of small magazines and quarterlies that consistently discuss a broad cultural agenda with nonspecialist readers, such as The Threepenny Review, The New Criterion, and The Hudson Review. But most poetry is published in journals that address an insular audience of literary professionals, mainly teachers of creative writing and their students. A few of these, such as American Poetry Review and AWP Chronicle, have moderately large circulations. Many more have negligible readerships. But size is not the problem. The problem is their complacency or resignation about existing only in and for a subculture.

    What are the characteristics of a poetry-subculture publication? First, the one subject it addresses is current American literature (supplemented perhaps by a few translations of poets who have already been widely translated). Second, if it prints anything other than poetry, that is usually short fiction. Third, if it runs discursive prose, the essays and reviews are overwhelmingly positive. If it publishes an interview, the tone will be unabashedly reverent toward the author. For these journals critical prose exists not to provide a disinterested perspective on new books but to publicize them. Quite often there are manifest personal connections between the reviewers and the authors they discuss. If occasionally a negative review is published, it will be openly sectarian, rejecting an aesthetic that the magazine has already condemned. The unspoken editorial rule seems to be, Never surprise or annoy the readers; they are, after all, mainly our friends and colleagues.

    By abandoning the hard work of evaluation, the poetry subculture demeans its own art. Since there are too many new poetry collections appearing each year for anyone to evaluate, the reader must rely on the candor and discernment of reviewers to recommend the best books. But the general press has largely abandoned this task, and the specialized press has grown so overprotective of poetry that it is reluctant to make harsh judgments. In his new book, American Poetry: Wildness and Domesticity, Robert Bly has accurately described the corrosive effect of this critical boosterism:

    We have an odd situation: although more bad poetry is being published now than ever before in American history, most of the reviews are positive. Critics say, "I never attack what is bad, all that will take care of itself," . . . but the country is full of young poets and readers who are confused by seeing mediocre poetry praised, or never attacked, and who end up doubting their own critical perceptions.

    A clubby feeling also typifies most recent anthologies of contemporary poetry. Although these collections represent themselves as trustworthy guides to the best new poetry, they are not compiled for readers outside the academy. More than one editor has discovered that the best way to get an anthology assigned is to include work by the poets who teach the courses. Compiled in the spirit of congenial opportunism, many of these anthologies give the impression that literary quality is a concept that neither an editor nor a reader should take too seriously.

    The 1985 Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, for example, is not so much a selective literary collection as a comprehensive directory of creative-writing teachers (it even offers a photo of each author). Running nearly 800 pages, the volume presents no fewer than 104 important young poets, virtually all of whom teach creative writing. The editorial principle governing selection seems to have been the fear of leaving out some influential colleague. The book does contain a few strong and original poems, but they are surrounded by so many undistinguished exercises that one wonders if the good work got there by design or simply by random sampling. In the drearier patches one suspects that perhaps the book was never truly meant to be read, only assigned.

    And that is the real issue. The poetry subculture no longer assumes that all published poems will be read. Like their colleagues in other academic departments, poetry professionals must publish, for purposes of both job security and career advancement. The more they publish, the faster they progress. If they do not publish, or wait too long, their economic futures are in grave jeopardy.

    In art, of course, everyone agrees that quality and not quantity matters. Some authors survive on the basis of a single unforgettable poem—Edmund Waller's "Go, Lovely Rose," for example, or Edwin Markham's "The Man With the Hoe," which was made famous by being reprinted in hundreds of newspapers—an unthinkable occurrence today. But bureaucracies, by their very nature, have difficulty measuring something as intangible as literary quality. When institutions evaluate creative artists for employment or promotion, they still must find some seemingly objective means to do so. As the critic Bruce Bawer has observed,

    A poem is, after all, a fragile thing, and its intrinsic worth or lack thereof, is a frighteningly subjective consideration; but fellowship grants, degrees, appointments, and publications are objective facts. They are quantifiable; they can be listed on a resume.

    Poets serious about making careers in institutions understand that the criteria for success are primarily quantitative. They must publish as much as possible as quickly as possible. The slow maturation of genuine creativity looks like laziness to a committee. Wallace Stevens was forty-three when his first book appeared. Robert Frost was thirty-nine. Today these sluggards would be unemployable.

    The proliferation of literary journals and presses over the past thirty years has been a response less to an increased appetite for poetry among the public than to the desperate need of writing teachers for professional validation. Like subsidized farming that grows food no one wants, a poetry industry has been created to serve the interests of the producers and not the consumers. And in the process the integrity of the art has been betrayed. Of course, no poet is allowed to admit this in public. The cultural credibility of the professional poetry establishment depends on maintaining a polite hypocrisy. Millions of dollars in public and private funding are at stake. Luckily, no one outside the subculture cares enough to press the point very far. No Woodward and Bernstein will ever investigate a cover-up by members of the Associated Writing Programs.

    The new poet makes a living not by publishing literary work but by providing specialized educational services. Most likely he or she either works for or aspires to work for a large institution—usually a state-run enterprise, such as a school district, a college, or a university (or lately even a hospital or prison)—teaching others how to write poetry or, on the highest levels, how to teach others how to write poetry.

    To look at the issue in strictly economic terms, most contemporary poets have been alienated from their original cultural function. As Marx maintained and few economists have disputed, changes in a class's economic function eventually transform its values and behavior. In poetry's case, the socioeconomic changes have led to a divided literary culture: the superabundance of poetry within a small class and the impoverishment outside it. One might even say that outside the classroom—where society demands that the two groups interact—poets and the common reader are no longer on speaking terms.

    The divorce of poetry from the educated reader has had another, more pernicious result. Seeing so much mediocre verse not only published but praised, slogging through so many dull anthologies and small magazines, most readers—even sophisticated ones like Joseph Epstein—now assume that no significant new poetry is being written. This public skepticism represents the final isolation of verse as an art form in contemporary society.

    The irony is that this skepticism comes in a period of genuine achievement. Gresham's Law, that bad coinage drives out good, only half applies to current poetry. The sheer mass of mediocrity may have frightened away most readers, but it has not yet driven talented writers from the field. Anyone patient enough to weed through the tangle of contemporary work finds an impressive and diverse range of new poetry. Adrienne Rich, for example, despite her often overbearing polemics, is a major poet by any standard. The best work of Donald Justice, Anthony Hecht, Donald Hall, James Merrill, Louis Simpson, William Stafford, and Richard Wilbur—to mention only writers of the older generation—can hold its own against anything in the national literature. One might also add Sylvia Plath and James Wright, two strong poets of the same generation who died early. America is also a country rich in emigre poetry, as major writers like Czeslaw Milosz, Nina Cassian, Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky, and Thom Gunn demonstrate.

    Without a role in the broader culture, however, talented poets lack the confidence to create public speech. Occasionally a writer links up rewardingly to a social or political movement. Rich, for example, has used feminism to expand the vision of her work. Robert Bly wrote his finest poetry to protest the Vietnam War. His sense of addressing a large and diverse audience added humor, breadth, and humanity to his previously minimal verse. But it is a difficult task to marry the Muse happily to politics. Consequently, most contemporary poets, knowing that they are virtually invisible in the larger culture, focus on the more intimate forms of lyric and meditative verse. (And a few loners, like X. J. Kennedy and John Updike, turn their genius to the critically disreputable demimonde of light verse and children's poetry.) Therefore, although current American poetry has not often excelled in public forms like political or satiric verse, it has nonetheless produced personal poems of unsurpassed beauty and power. Despite its manifest excellence, this new work has not found a public beyond the poetry subculture, because the traditional machinery of transmission—the reliable reviewing, honest criticism, and selective anthologies—has broken down. The audience that once made Frost and Eliot, Cummings and Millay, part of its cultural vision remains out of reach. Today Walt Whitman's challenge "To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too" reads like an indictment.
    From Bohemia to Bureaucracy

    To maintain their activities, subcultures usually require institutions, since the general society does not share their interests. Nudists flock to "nature camps" to express their unfettered life-style. Monks remain in monasteries to protect their austere ideals. As long as poets belonged to a broader class of artists and intellectuals, they centered their lives in urban bohemias, where they maintained a distrustful independence from institutions. Once poets began moving into universities, they abandoned the working-class heterogeneity of Greenwich Village and North Beach for the professional homogeneity of academia.

    At first they existed on the fringes of English departments, which was probably healthy. Without advanced degrees or formal career paths, poets were recognized as special creatures. They were allowed—like aboriginal chieftains visiting an anthropologist's campsite—to behave according to their own laws. But as the demand for creative writing grew, the poet's job expanded from merely literary to administrative duties. At the university's urging, these self-trained writers designed history's first institutional curricula for young poets. Creative writing evolved from occasional courses taught within the English department into its own undergraduate major or graduate-degree program. Writers fashioned their academic specialty in the image of other university studies. As the new writing departments multiplied, the new professionals patterned their infrastructure—job titles, journals, annual conventions, organizations—according to the standards not of urban bohemia but of educational institutions. Out of the professional networks this educational expansion created, the subculture of poetry was born.

    Initially, the multiplication of creative-writing programs must have been a dizzyingly happy affair. Poets who had scraped by in bohemia or had spent their early adulthood fighting the Second World War suddenly secured stable, well-paying jobs. Writers who had never earned much public attention found themselves surrounded by eager students. Poets who had been too poor to travel flew from campus to campus and from conference to conference, to speak before audiences of their peers. As Wilfrid Sheed once described a moment in John Berryman's career, "Through the burgeoning university network, it was suddenly possible to think of oneself as a national poet, even if the nation turned out to consist entirely of English Departments." The bright postwar world promised a renaissance for American poetry.

    In material terms that promise has been fulfilled beyond the dreams of anyone in Berryman's Depression-scarred generation. Poets now occupy niches at every level of academia, from a few sumptuously endowed chairs with six-figure salaries to the more numerous part-time stints that pay roughly the same as Burger King. But even at minimum wage, teaching poetry earns more than writing it ever did. Before the creative-writing boom, being a poet usually meant living in genteel poverty or worse. While the sacrifices poetry demanded caused much individual suffering, the rigors of serving Milton's "thankless Muse" also delivered the collective cultural benefit of frightening away all but committed artists.

    Today poetry is a modestly upwardly mobile, middle-class profession—not as lucrative as waste management or dermatology but several big steps above the squalor of bohemia. Only a philistine would romanticize the blissfully banished artistic poverty of yesteryear. But a clear-eyed observer must also recognize that by opening the poet's trade to all applicants and by employing writers to do something other than write, institutions have changed the social and economic identity of the poet from artist to educator. In social terms the identification of poet with teacher is now complete. The first question one poet now asks another upon being introduced is "Where do you teach?" The problem is not that poets teach. The campus is not a bad place for a poet to work. It's just a bad place for all poets to work. Society suffers by losing the imagination and vitality that poets brought to public culture. Poetry suffers when literary standards are forced to conform with institutional ones.

    Even within the university contemporary poetry now exists as a subculture. The teaching poet finds that he or she has little in common with academic colleagues. The academic study of literature over the past twenty-five years has veered off in a theoretical direction with which most imaginative writers have little sympathy or familiarity. Thirty years ago detractors of creative-writing programs predicted that poets in universities would become enmeshed in literary criticism and scholarship. This prophecy has proved spectacularly wrong. Poets have created enclaves in the academy almost entirely separate from their critical colleagues. They write less criticism than they did before entering the academy. Pressed to keep up with the plethora of new poetry, small magazines, professional journals, and anthologies, they are frequently also less well read in the literature of the past. Their peers in the English department generally read less contemporary poetry and more literary theory. In many departments writers and literary theorists are openly at war. Bringing the two groups under one roof has paradoxically made each more territorial. Isolated even within the university, the poet, whose true subject is the whole of human existence, has reluctantly become an educational specialist.
    When People Paid Attention

    To understand how radically the situation of the American poet has changed, one need only compare today with fifty years ago. In 1940, with the notable exception of Robert Frost, few poets were working in colleges unless, like Mark Van Doren and Yvor Winters, they taught traditional academic subjects. The only creative-writing program was an experiment begun a few years earlier at the University of Iowa. The modernists exemplified the options that poets had for making a living. They could enter middle-class professions, as had T. S. Eliot (a banker turned publisher), Wallace Stevens (a corporate insurance lawyer) and William Carlos Williams (a pediatrician). Or they could live in bohemia supporting themselves as artists, as, in different ways, did Ezra Pound, E. E. Cummings, and Marianne Moore. If the city proved unattractive, they could, like Robinson Jeffers, scrape by in a rural arts colony like Carmel, California. Or they might become farmers, like the young Robert Frost.

    Most often poets supported themselves as editors or reviewers, actively taking part in the artistic and intellectual life of their time. Archibald MacLeish was an editor and writer at Fortune. James Agee reviewed movies for Time and The Nation, and eventually wrote screenplays for Hollywood. Randall Jarrell reviewed books. Weldon Kees wrote about jazz and modern art. Delmore Schwartz reviewed everything. Even poets who eventually took up academic careers spent intellectually broadening apprenticeships in literary journalism. The young Robert Hayden covered music and theater for Michigan's black press. R. P. Blackmur, who never completed high school, reviewed books for Hound & Horn before teaching at Princeton. Occasionally a poet might supplement his or her income by giving a reading or lecture, but these occasions were rare. Robinson Jeffers, for example, was fifty-four when he gave his first public reading. For most poets, the sustaining medium was not the classroom or the podium but the written word.

    If poets supported themselves by writing, it was mainly by writing prose. Paying outlets for poetry were limited. Beyond a few national magazines, which generally preferred light verse or political satire, there were at any one time only a few dozen journals that published a significant amount of poetry. The emergence of a serious new quarterly like Partisan Review or Furioso was an event of real importance, and a small but dedicated audience eagerly looked forward to each issue. If people could not afford to buy copies, they borrowed them or visited public libraries. As for books of poetry if one excludes vanity-press editions, fewer than a hundred new titles were published each year. But the books that did appear were reviewed in daily newspapers as well as magazines and quarterlies. A focused monthly like Poetry could cover virtually the entire field.

    Reviewers fifty years ago were by today's standards extraordinarily tough. They said exactly what they thought, even about their most influential contemporaries. Listen, for example, to Randall Jarrell's description of a book by the famous anthologist Oscar Williams: it "gave the impression of having been written on a typewriter by a typewriter." That remark kept Jarrell out of subsequent Williams anthologies, but he did not hesitate to publish it. Or consider Jarrell's assessment of Archibald MacLeish's public poem America Was Promises: it "might have been devised by a YMCA secretary at a home for the mentally deficient." Or read Weldon Kees's one-sentence review of Muriel Rukeyser's Wake Island—"There's one thing you can say about Muriel: she's not lazy." But these same reviewers could write generously about poets they admired, as Jarrell did about Elizabeth Bishop, and Kees about Wallace Stevens. Their praise mattered, because readers knew it did not come lightly.

    The reviewers of fifty years ago knew that their primary loyalty must lie not with their fellow poets or publishers but with the reader. Consequently they reported their reactions with scrupulous honesty even when their opinions might lose them literary allies and writing assignments. In discussing new poetry they addressed a wide community of educated readers. Without talking down to their audience, they cultivated a public idiom. Prizing clarity and accessibility they avoided specialist jargon and pedantic displays of scholarship. They also tried, as serious intellectuals should but specialists often do not, to relate what was happening in poetry to social, political, and artistic trends. They charged modern poetry with cultural importance and made it the focal point of their intellectual discourse.

    Ill-paid, overworked, and underappreciated, this argumentative group of "practical" critics, all of them poets, accomplished remarkable things. They defined the canon of modernist poetry, established methods to analyze verse of extraordinary difficulty, and identified the new mid-century generation of American poets (Lowell, Roethke, Bishop, Berryman, and others) that still dominates our literary consciousness. Whatever one thinks of their literary canon or critical principles, one must admire the intellectual energy and sheer determination of these critics, who developed as writers without grants or permanent faculty positions, often while working precariously on free-lance assignments. They represent a high point in American intellectual life. Even fifty years later their names still command more authority than those of all but a few contemporary critics. A short roll call would include John Berryman, R. P. Blackmur, Louise Bogan, John Ciardi, Horace Gregory, Langston Hughes, Randall Jarrell, Weldon Kees, Kenneth Rexroth, Delmore Schwartz, Karl Shapiro, Allen Tate, and Yvor Winters. Although contemporary poetry has its boosters and publicists, it has no group of comparable dedication and talent able to address the general literary community.

    Like all genuine intellectuals, these critics were visionary. They believed that if modern poets did not have an audience, they could create one. And gradually they did. It was not a mass audience; few American poets of any period have enjoyed a direct relationship with the general public. It was a cross-section of artists and intellectuals, including scientists, clergymen, educators, lawyers, and, of course, writers. This group constituted a literary intelligentsia, made up mainly of nonspecialists, who took poetry as seriously as fiction and drama. Recently Donald Hall and other critics have questioned the size of this audience by citing the low average sales of a volume of new verse by an established poet during the period (usually under a thousand copies). But these skeptics do not understand how poetry was read then.

    America was a smaller, less affluent country in 1940, with about half its current population and one sixth its current real GNP. In those pre-paperback days of the late Depression neither readers nor libraries could afford to buy as many books as they do today. Nor was there a large captive audience of creative-writing students who bought books of contemporary poetry for classroom use. Readers usually bought poetry in two forms—in an occasional Collected Poems by a leading author, or in anthologies. The comprehensive collections of writers like Frost, Eliot, Auden, Jeffers, Wylie, and Millay sold very well, were frequently reprinted, and stayed perpetually in print. (Today most Collected Poems disappear after one printing.) Occasionally a book of new poems would capture the public's fancy. Edwin Arlington Robinson's Tristram (1927) became a Literary Guild selection. Frost's A Further Range sold 50,000 copies as a 1936 Book-of-the-Month Club selection. But people knew poetry mainly from anthologies, which they not only bought but also read, with curiosity and attention.

    Louis Untermeyer's Modern American Poetry, first published in 1919, was frequently revised to keep it up to date and was a perennial best seller. My 1942 edition, for example, had been reprinted five times by 1945. My edition of Oscar Williams's A Pocket Book of Modern Poetry had been reprinted nineteen times in fourteen years. Untermeyer and Williams prided themselves on keeping their anthologies broad-based and timely. They tried to represent the best of what was being published. Each edition added new poems and poets and dropped older ones. The public appreciated their efforts. Poetry anthologies were an indispensable part of any serious reader's library. Random House's popular Modern Library series, for example, included not one but two anthologies—Selden Rodman's A New Anthology of Modern Poetry and Conrad Aiken's Twentieth Century American Poetry. All these collections were read and reread by a diverse public. Favorite poems were memorized. Difficult authors like Eliot and Thomas were actively discussed and debated. Poetry mattered outside the classroom.

    Today these general readers constitute the audience that poetry has lost. Limited by intelligence and curiosity this heterogeneous group cuts across lines of race, class, age, and occupation. Representing our cultural intelligentsia, they are the people who support the arts—who buy classical and jazz records; who attend foreign films and serious theater, opera, symphony, and dance; who read quality fiction and biographies; who listen to public radio and subscribe to the best journals. (They are also often the parents who read poetry to their children and remember, once upon a time in college or high school or kindergarten, liking it themselves.) No one knows the size of this community, but even if one accepts the conservative estimate that it accounts for only two percent of the U.S. population, it still represents a potential audience of almost five million readers. However healthy poetry may appear within its professional subculture, it has lost this larger audience, who represent poetry's bridge to the general culture.
    The Need for Poetry

    But why should anyone but a poet care about the problems of American poetry? What possible relevance does this archaic art form have to contemporary society? In a better world, poetry would need no justification beyond the sheer splendor of its own existence. As Wallace Stevens once observed, "The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man's happiness." Children know this essential truth when they ask to hear their favorite nursery rhymes again and again. Aesthetic pleasure needs no justification, because a life without such pleasure is one not worth living.

    But the rest of society has mostly forgotten the value of poetry. To the general reader, discussions about the state of poetry sound like the debating of foreign politics by emigres in a seedy cafe. Or, as Cyril Connolly more bitterly described it, "Poets arguing about modern poetry: jackals snarling over a dried-up well." Anyone who hopes to broaden poetry's audience—critic, teacher, librarian, poet, or lonely literary amateur—faces a daunting challenge. How does one persuade justly skeptical readers, in terms they can understand and appreciate, that poetry still matters?

    A passage in William Carlos Williams's "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" provides a possible starting point. Written toward the end of the author's life, after he had been partly paralyzed by a stroke, the lines sum up the hard lessons about poetry and audience that Williams had learned over years of dedication to both poetry and medicine. He wrote,

    My heart rouses
    thinking to bring you news
    of something
    that concerns you
    and concerns many men. Look at
    what passes for the new.
    You will not find it there but in
    despised poems.
    It is difficult
    to get the news from poems
    yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
    of what is found there.

    Williams understood poetry's human value but had no illusions about the difficulties his contemporaries faced in trying to engage the audience that needed the art most desperately. To regain poetry's readership one must begin by meeting Williams's challenge to find what "concerns many men," not simply what concerns poets.

    There are at least two reasons why the situation of poetry matters to the entire intellectual community. The first involves the role of language in a free society. Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning. A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it—be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters. The public responsibility of poetry has been pointed out repeatedly by modern writers. Even the archsymbolist Stephane Mallarme praised the poet's central mission to "purify the words of the tribe." And Ezra Pound warned that

    Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clean. It doesn't matter whether a good writer wants to be useful, or whether the bad writer wants to do harm. . . .

    If a nation's literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.

    Or, as George Orwell wrote after the Second World War, "One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language. . . ."

    Poetry is not the entire solution to keeping the nation's language clear and honest, but one is hard pressed to imagine a country's citizens improving the health of its language while abandoning poetry.

    The second reason why the situation of poetry matters to all intellectuals is that poetry is not alone among the arts in its marginal position. If the audience for poetry has declined into a subculture of specialists, so too have the audiences for most contemporary art forms, from serious drama to jazz. The unprecedented fragmentation of American high culture during the past half century has left most arts in isolation from one another as well as from the general audience. Contemporary classical music scarcely exists as a living art outside university departments and conservatories. Jazz, which once commanded a broad popular audience, has become the semi-private domain of aficionados and musicians. (Today even influential jazz innovators cannot find places to perform in many metropolitan centers—and for an improvisatory art the inability to perform is a crippling liability.) Much serious drama is now confined to the margins of American theater, where it is seen only by actors, aspiring actors, playwrights, and a few diehard fans. Only the visual arts, perhaps because of their financial glamour and upper-class support, have largely escaped the decline in public attention.
    How Poets Can Be Heard

    The most serious question for the future of American culture is whether the arts will continue to exist in isolation and decline into subsidized academic specialties or whether some possibility of rapprochement with the educated public remains. Each of the arts must face the challenge separately, and no art faces more towering obstacles than poetry. Given the decline of literacy, the proliferation of other media, the crisis in humanities education, the collapse of critical standards, and the sheer weight of past failures, how can poets possibly succeed in being heard? Wouldn't it take a miracle?

    Toward the end of her life Marianne Moore wrote a short poem called "O To Be a Dragon." This poem recalled the biblical dream in which the Lord appeared to King Solomon and said, "Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon wished for a wise and understanding heart. Moore's wish is harder to summarize. Her poem reads,

    If I, like Solomon, . . .
    could have my wish—

    my wish . . . O to be a dragon,
    a symbol of the power of Heaven—of silkworm
    size or immense; at times invisible.
    Felicitous phenomenon!

    Moore got her wish. She became, as all genuine poets do, "a symbol of the power of Heaven." She succeeded in what Robert Frost called "the utmost of ambition"—namely "to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of." She is permanently part of the "felicitous phenomenon" of American literature.

    So wishes can come true—even extravagant ones. If I, like Marianne Moore, could have my wish, and I, like Solomon, could have the self-control not to wish for myself, I would wish that poetry could again become a part of American public culture. I don't think this is impossible. All it would require is that poets and poetry teachers take more responsibility for bringing their art to the public. I will close with six modest proposals for how this dream might come true.

    1. When poets give public readings, they should spend part of every program reciting other people's work—preferably poems they admire by writers they do not know personally. Readings should be celebrations of poetry in general, not merely of the featured author's work.

    2. When arts administrators plan public readings, they should avoid the standard subculture format of poetry only. Mix poetry with the other arts, especially music. Plan evenings honoring dead or foreign writers. Combine short critical lectures with poetry performances. Such combinations would attract an audience from beyond the poetry world without compromising quality.

    3. Poets need to write prose about poetry more often, more candidly, and more effectively. Poets must recapture the attention of the broader intellectual community by writing for nonspecialist publications. They must also avoid the jargon of contemporary academic criticism and write in a public idiom. Finally, poets must regain the reader's trust by candidly admitting what they don't like as well as promoting what they like. Professional courtesy has no place in literary journalism.

    4. Poets who compile anthologies—or even reading lists—should be scrupulously honest in including only poems they genuinely admire. Anthologies are poetry's gateway to the general culture. They should not be used as pork barrels for the creative-writing trade. An art expands its audience by presenting masterpieces, not mediocrity. Anthologies should be compiled to move, delight, and instruct readers, not to flatter the writing teachers who assign books. Poet-anthologists must never trade the Muse's property for professional favors.

    5. Poetry teachers especially at the high school and undergraduate levels, should spend less time on analysis and more on performance. Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited, and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual excitement of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry's future.

    6. Finally poets and arts administrators should use radio to expand the art's audience. Poetry is an aural medium, and thus ideally suited to radio. A little imaginative programming at the hundreds of college and public-supported radio stations could bring poetry to millions of listeners. Some programming exists, but it is stuck mostly in the standard subculture format of living poets' reading their own work. Mixing poetry with music on classical and jazz stations or creating innovative talk-radio formats could re-establish a direct relationship between poetry and the general audience.

    The history of art tells the same story over and over. As art forms develop, they establish conventions that guide creation, performance, instruction, even analysis. But eventually these conventions grow stale. They begin to stand between the art and its audience. Although much wonderful poetry is being written, the American poetry establishment is locked into a series of exhausted conventions—outmoded ways of presenting, discussing, editing, and teaching poetry. Educational institutions have codified them into a stifling bureaucratic etiquette that enervates the art. These conventions may once have made sense, but today they imprison poetry in an intellectual ghetto.

    It is time to experiment, time to leave the well-ordered but stuffy classroom, time to restore a vulgar vitality to poetry and unleash the energy now trapped in the subculture. There is nothing to lose. Society has already told us that poetry is dead. Let's build a funeral pyre out of the dessicated conventions piled around us and watch the ancient, spangle-feathered, unkillable phoenix rise from the ashes.
    The failure of the public school system has had a large impact upon the numbers of people that read poetry, that due to the fact that millions have not the mental capacity(mental acuity) to understand the more intellectually deep and philosophical poems.
    Well, if truth be told , millions can not understand even, most of the far simpler poems, IMHO.-TYR
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    Are Shakespeare and Dante Dead White European Males? Part 1

    Written by: David B. Gosselin

    The answer to the above question is of course no. Shakespeare and Dante are not dead because every true poet is immortal.

    However, much of our contemporary thinkers seem to be under the impression that they are dead, and that they are not as relevant and talented as first thought, but that rather their qualities were simply exaggerated because they happened to belong to a ‘historically dominant gender and ethnic group’. However any discerning eye will notice that such a ‘dead white European male’ argument avoids actually taking on the content of a Shakespeare’s or Dante’s ideas, which in fact have a continuity spanning over thousands of years, through the Golden Renaissance, through the Dark Ages, back to the times of ancient Greece and the Homeric epics. Moreover these ideas address some of the most fundamental questions concerning the human condition.

    However, before we continue, I can hear protests saying that the canon above mentioned, really only refers to dead white European males. But the truth is that this kind of humanist thinking has parallels in virtually every culture, from the Confucian traditions in China, to those of Tilak and Tagore in India, to those of Ibn Sina of Persia and the many bards of Moorish Spain. There are great thinkers from cultures across the world.

    Therefore, what the contemporary brand of thinking is really dismissing, is not a specific grouping or period, as the ideas embodied by these individuals span virtually as far back as recorded history, but rather they are witting or unwittingly dismissing those humanist ideas traced throughout history.

    Unfortunately much of what is referred to by the ‘contemporary’ and modernist schools of thinking,renders itself largely irrelevant by virtue of the fact that they wish to treat the recent decades of modernist thinking, which span mere seconds on the scale of human history, as some isolated phenomena detached from the entirety of that continuity out of which it unfolded.

    Were they to compare those few seconds with the universal arc of history, they would quickly discover the relevancy of a Shakespeare or Dante’s ideas.

    Take but one small example from Shakespeare, which in only 14 lines manages to capture and develop the most fundamental of paradoxes underlying our individual mortal existence:

    From fairest creatures we desire increase,
    That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
    But as the riper should by time decease,
    His tender heir might bear his memory:
    But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
    Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
    Making a famine where abundance lies,
    Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
    Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
    And only herald to the gaudy spring,
    Within thine own bud buriest thy content
    And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
    Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

    Shakespeare opens by saying we are all attracted to beauty and long for it, and desiring ‘increase’ i.e. to reproduce, yet even in the first two lines, it’s stated that this beauty fades and that even the fairest of creature’s is no match for time. Yet, in recognizing that this beauty does fade, only then is one ready to discover an even higher order of beauty: the power to generate new beauty.

    What does a world look like, where each individual is acting with the conscious idea that they are responsible for the re-creation and continued development of the human species; that they are not a mere individual but are defined and in turn define themselves by this eternal process for which they are now a mediating part. What does that look like vs. someone who has a baby because they made a mistake or someone who does not want children because it takes to much time and costs too much? What image of beauty are they after?

    The truth is they have not truly considered the paradox of their mortality, likely, they refuse to face it, and prefer to hang on to that ever fleeting image of earthly beauty, which so entices the senses, but ultimately 'eats itself by the grave and thee.'

    For more visit www.thechainedmuse.com
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    Can Poetry Matter?
    Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world, they can work to make it essential once more


    MAY 1991 ISSUE
    American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.

    What makes the situation of contemporary poets particularly surprising is that it comes at a moment of unprecedented expansion for the art. There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines. Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet. There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels. Congress has even instituted the position of poet laureate, as have twenty-five states. One also finds a complex network of public subvention for poets, funded by federal, state, and local agencies, augmented by private support in the form of foundation fellowships, prizes, and subsidized retreats. There has also never before been so much published criticism about contemporary poetry; it fills dozens of literary newsletters and scholarly journals.
    The proliferation of new poetry and poetry programs is astounding by any historical measure. Just under a thousand new collections of verse are published each year, in addition to a myriad of new poems printed in magazines both small and large. No one knows how many poetry readings take place each year, but surely the total must run into the tens of thousands. And there are now about 200 graduate creative-writing programs in the United States, and more than a thousand undergraduate ones. With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.

    But the poetry boom has been a distressingly confined phenomenon. Decades of public and private funding have created a large profe..........

    Read more at the link shown below--


    Last edited by Tyr-Ziu Saxnot; 08-06-2018 at 10:29 AM.
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    One of my sources found during my research into the decay in modern poetry. A decay that in my opinion matches quite well with the moral decay within our culture.
    What gets me is the fierce attack made upon the great and legendary poets of old. Attacks made because those that hold the reins now , want not quality and heart in poetic verse but rather instead-- feel-y, touch-y, rant-y style free verse that exhibit and promote any form of emotion even if it is chaotic ramblings, rude/crude blatherings, or crazy-babble...
    One look at how and which poets are now being covered in literature classes in high school and universities shows this decay and the deliberate course change by the so-called enlightened liberals that destroy any vestige of decency, greater intellectual thought , Christian based morality that they can seize upon to do so, IMHO. --Tyr



    20th-Century Poetry: Interdependent Modernisms

    Each of the authors on this list has made a fundamental contribution to 20th century poetry, modernism in the comprehensive, inwardly conflicted sense. To understand the meaning of this claim, we should view these figures and their most important works in juxtaposition with one other. This topic entails a "comparative" perspective, but "contrastive" may be the more appropriate term. Some relevant questions might be:

    — How can we speak fruitfully of "modernism" in a comprehensive sense? To what extent must we think in terms of distinct and conflicting modernisms? What, for example, do figures as different as W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Derek Walcott have in common, and what are the rationales for the different kinds of work they do, the positions they take?

    — To what should we attribute the allusiveness (and anti-allusiveness) of modern poetry? What is or should be the relation between the Modern, the Romantic, and the Classic traditions, according to Lawrence, Yeats, Eliot, Williams, Auden, Heaney, or Walcott? In what sense do the Romantics remain the first moderns, despite the efforts of most moderns to define their work in contradistinction to that of the Romantics? How, moreover, might we define the influences that the Romantics and the earlier moderns (Wordsworth, Hopkins, Hardy, and Yeats) had on later modern and "post-modern" figures, such as Auden, Heaney, and Walcott? In what ways have 20th century poets also been influenced by the work of thinkers such as Kant, Rousseau, Darwin , Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Freud?

    — How have social realities (such as urbanization), and political/historical events (such as the two World Wars) impacted on or defined the concerns of 20th century poetry?

    — What should we make of the religious or visionary claims of poets such as Lawrence ("star-polarity") , Yeats (gyres, images), Eliot (the still point), and Auden (agape, etc.), especially in light of their more materialist and political themes?

    — What is the relationship between formal methodology (metric strutures, Aristotelian and anti-Aristotelian structures) and moral, aesthetic, or political statement in the work of Yeats, Eliot,Williams, Auden, Heaney or Walcott? How does this relationship evolve in the course of a given poet's career?

    — How do we account for the genres adopted by a given poet? In the twentieth century, to what do terms such as "drama" and "epic" refer? What are the generic characteristics of longer works, such as The Wasteland, Ulysses, The Sea and the Mirror, and Omeros, or are these elaborate lyric works, in a sense?

    — How does the work of a given modern poet define significant tensions between abstract social or political statements and more personal concerns?



    PRIMARY READINGS

    HOPKINS
    — Collected Poems

    YEATS
    — Crossways
    — The Rose
    — The Wind Among the Reeds
    — The Green Helmet
    — Responsibilities
    — The Wild Swans at Coole
    — Michael Robartes and the Dancer
    — The Tower
    — The Winkling Stair New Poems
    — Last Poems
    — Autobiographies: Memories and Refelections (London: Bracken, 1995)
    — A Vision (London: Arena, 1990)
    — Collected Plays (London: Macmillan. 1966)
    — Essays and Introductions (New York: Collier Books, 1968)

    LAWRENCE
    — The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence (New York: Viking Penguin, 1988)
    — Selected Letters (New York: Penguin, 1978)
    — Essays and Critical Writing (New York: Viking, 1966)

    ELIOT
    — Prufrock and Other Observations
    — Poems 1920
    — The Waste Land, 1922
    — The Hollow Men, 1925
    — Ash Wednesday, 1930
    — Unfinished Poems
    — The Four Quartets
    — Tbe Waste Land. Facsimile Edition (London: Faber and Faber, 1971)
    — Letters (London: Faber and Faber, 1988)
    — Selected Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus, 1975)
    — Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (London: Faber and Faber, 1988)

    STEVENS
    — Harmonium
    — The Man with the Blue Guitar
    — Parts of a World
    — Transports of Summer
    — The Auroras of Autumn
    — Opus Posthumous (New York: Knopf, 1990)
    — The Necessary Angel

    WILLIAMS
    — Collected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1986)

    AUDEN
    — Collected Poems
    — The Dyer's Hand
    — Forewards and Afterwards

    HEANEY
    — New Selected Poems, 1966-87 (London: Faber and Faber, 1987). Includes texts from Death of a Naturalist to North
    — Preoccupations: Selected Prose

    WALCOTT
    — Collected Poems (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1990)
    — Omeros
    — Plays



    SECONDARY READINGS

    Paul de Man
    — Blindness and Insight
    — The Rhetoric of Romanticism
    Harold Bloom
    — The Visionary Company
    Paul Fussel
    — The Great War and Modern Memory
    Hugh Kenner
    — The Pound Era
    Frank Kermode
    — The Romantic Image
    — The Sense of an Ending
    Jean-François Lyotard
    — The Unpresentable
    Perry Meisel
    — The Myth of the Modern
    Georg Simmel
    — The Metropolis and Modern Life


    Bannerjee, A., ed.
    — D. H. Lawrence's Poetry
    Benamou, Michel
    — Wallace Stevens and the Symbolist Imagination
    Blamires, Harry
    — Word Unheard: A Guide through T.S. Eliot's 'Four Ouartets'
    Bloom, Harold, ed.
    — William Butler Yeats
    — Seamus Heaney: Modem Critical Views
    Brown, Stewart, ed.
    — The Art of Derek Walcott
    Cullingford, Elizabeth B.
    — Gender and History in Yeats's Love Poetry
    Draper, R.P.
    — Twentieth Century Poetry in English
    — The Literature of Region and Nation
    Ellman, Richard
    — Yeats: The Man and The Masks
    Fraser, G.S.
    — Essays on Twentieth Century Poets
    Friedman, Barton
    — Adventures in the Deeps of the Mind
    Hynes, Samuel
    — The Pattern of Hardy's Poetry.
    Jeffares, Norman
    — Yeats's Poems
    — A New Commentary on the Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
    Lucas, John
    — Modem English Poetry from Hardy to Yeats
    Jain, Manju
    — A Critical Reading of The Selected Poems of T. S. Eliot
    Kiely, Benedict
    — Yeats's Ireland
    Mariani, Paul
    — William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked
    Marshall, Tom
    — The Psychic Mariner: A Reading of the Poems of D.H. Lawrence
    Markos, Donald W.
    — Ideas in Things: The Poems of William Carlos Williams
    Mendelson, Edward
    — Early Auden
    — Later Auden
    Stallworthy, Jon
    — Vision and Revision in Yeats's 'Last Poems'
    Tamplin, Ronald
    — A Preface to T.S. Eliot
    Terada, Rei
    — Derek Walcott's Poetry: American Mimicry
    Vendler, Helen
    — Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen out of Desire
    Williamson George
    — A Reader's Guide to T.S. Eliot
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    Mark Strand on Poetry and Poetics--from Essays and Interviews

    On Donald Justice

    From the very beginning Justice has fashioned his poems, honed them down, freed them of rhetorical excess and the weight, however gracefully sustained, of an elaborate diction. His self-indulgence, then, has been with the possibilities of the plain statement. His refusal to adopt any other mode but that which his subject demands--minimal, narcissist, negating--has nourished him. . . .

    If absence and loss are inescapable conditions of fife, the poem for Justice is an act of recovery. It synthesizes, for all its meagreness, what is with what is no longer; it conjures up a life that persists by denial, gathering strength from its hopelessness, and exists, finally and positively, as an emblem of survival.

    From Contemporary Poets. Ed. James Vinson. (St. Martin’s, 1980)

    On The Monument

    I strated writing The Monument and it became less and less about the translator of a particular text, and more about the translation of a self, and the text as self, the self as book.

    From an interview with Frank Graziano in Graziano, ed. Strand: A Profile (1979)

    From The Monument (1978)

    (#9)

    It has been necessary to submit to vacancy in order to begin again, to clear ground, to make space. I can allow nothing to be received. Therein lies my triumph and my mediocrity. Nothing is the destiny of everyone, it is our commonness made dumb. I am passing it on. The monument is a void, artless and everlasting. What I was I am no longer. I speak for nothing, the nothing that I am, the nothing that is this work. And you shall perpetuate me not in the name of what I was, but in the name of what I am.

    (#22)

    This poor document does not have to do with a self, it dwells on the absence of a self. I--and this pronoun will have to do--have not permitted anything worthwhile to be part of this communication that strains even to exist in a language other than the one in which it was written. So much is excluded that it could not be a document of self-centeredness. If it is a mirror to anything, it is to the gap between the nothing that was and the nothing that will be. It is a thread of longing that binds past and future. Again, it is everything that history is not.

    From "A Statement about Writing"

    Ideally, it would be best to just write, to suppress the critical side of my nature and indulge the expressive. Perhaps. But I tend to think of the expressive part of me as rather tedious--never curious or responsive, but blind and self-serving. And because it has no power, let alone appetite, for self-scrutiny, it fits the reductive, dominating needs of the critical side of me. The more I think about this, the more I think that not writing is the best way to write.

    Whether I admit it or not, I write to participate in the delusion of my own immortality which is born every minute. And yet, I write to resist myself. I find resistance irresistible. (317)

    In William Heyen, ed. The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets (1984)

    Introduction to the Poems in the Winter 1995-96
    Issue of Ploughshares

    I was very casual about the way I chose poems for this issue of Ploughshares. I asked a few friends--those I happened to be in touch with--for recent unpublished work. I picked what I wanted. Then I went through poems that had come directly to Ploughshares and which the editors thought would interest me. I recall that most of the poems which I chose came to me this way.

    I have no method for picking poems. I simply pick what pleases me. I am not concerned with truth, nor with conventional notions of what is beautiful. I tend to like poems that engage me--that is to say, which do not bore me. I like elaboration, but I am often taken by simplicity. Cadences move me, but flatness can also seduce. Sense, so long as it's not too familiar, is a pleasure, but so is nonsense when shrewdly exploited. Clearly, I have no set notion about what a poem ought to be.

    Editing a single issue of Ploughshares has not allowed me to reach any conclusions about the state of American poetry. American poetry still seems to be "out there," practiced by others in many different places and under many different conditions. The number of people writing poems is vast, and their reasons for doing so are many, that much can be surmised from the stacks of submissions. Whether or not this is a healthy state of affairs I cannot say. I simply don't know. And yet, in a culture like ours, which is given to material comforts, and addicted to forms of entertainment that offer immediate gratification, it is surprising that so much poetry is written. A great many people seem to think writing poetry is worthwhile, even though it pays next to nothing and is not as widely read as it should be. This is probably because it speaks for a level of experience unaccounted for by other literary genres or by popular forms of entertainment. So, perhaps, the fact that so many are writing poetry is a sign of health.

    Whatever the case, I hope that the poems I have chosen for this issue of Ploughshares find appreciative readers.

    source: http://www.emerson.edu/ploughshares/...and_Intro.html

    from An April 1999 Interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth on PBS

    ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm very interested in your ideas about how a poem works. You've said, "A poem releases itself, secretes itself slowly, sometimes almost poisonously, into the mind of the reader." How do you think poetry does that?

    MARK STRAND: Well, I think it -- a lot of it depends on the reader. The reader has to sort of give himself over to the poem and allow the poem to inhabit him and -- how does the poem do that? It does it by rearranging the world in such a way that it appears new. It does it by using language that is slightly different from the way language is used in the workday world, so tha you're forced to pay attention to it.

    [. . . .]

    ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you look for when you read a poem?

    MARK STRAND: I look for astonishment. I look to be moved, to have my view of the world in which I live somewhat changed, enlarged. I want both to belong more strongly to it or more emphatically to it, and yet, to be able to see it, to have -- well, it's almost a paradox to say this -- a more compassionate distance.

    from the complete interview go to http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/enter...tzer_4-15.html

    from "Notes on the Craft of Poetry"

    For some of us, the less said about the way we do things the better. And I for one am not even sure that I have a recognizable way of doing things, or if I did that I could talk about it. I do not have a secret method of writing, nor do I have a set of do's and don'ts. Each poem demands that I treat it differently from the rest, come to terms with it, seek out its own best beginning and ending. And yet I would be kidding myself if I believed that nothing continuous existed in the transactions between myself and my poems. I suppose this is what we mean by craft: those transactions that become so continuous we not only associate ourselves with them but allow them to represent the means by which we make art. But since they rarely declare themselves in procedural terms, how do we talk about them? To a large extent, these transactions I have chosen to call craft are the sole property of the individual poet and cannot be transferred to or adopted by others. One reason for this is that they are largely unknown at the time of writing and are discovered afterwards, if at all.

    . . .

    One essay that had great importance for me when I began to write was George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Reading it, I encountered for the first time a moral statement about good writing. True, Orwell was not considering the literary use of language, but language as an instrument for expressing thought. His point was that just as our English can become ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, so the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The following rules, he explains, can be relied upon when the writer is in doubt about the effect of a word or phrase and his instinct fails him.

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    These are of course very elementary rules and you could, as Orwell admits, keep all of them and still write bad English, though not as bad as you might have. But how far will they take us in the writing of a poem? And how much of that transaction I mentioned earlier is described by them? If following a simple set of rules guaranteed the success of a poem, poems would not be held in very high esteem, as, of course, they are. And far too many people would find it easy to write them, which, naturally, is not the case. For the poems that are of greatest value are those that inevitably, unselfconsciously break rules, poems whose urgency makes rules irrelevant.

    . . .

    I believe that all poetry is formal in that it exists within limits, limits that are either inherited by tradition or limits that language itself imposes. These limits exist in turn within the limits of the individual poet's conception of what is or is not a poem. For if the would-be poet has no idea what a poem is, then he has no standard for determining or qualifying his actions as a poet; i.e., his poem. "Form," it should be remembered, is a word that has several meanings, some of which are near opposites. Form has to do with the structure or outward appearance of something, but it also has to do with its essence. In discussions of poetry, form is a powerful word for just that reason: structure and essence seem to come together, as do the disposition of words and their meanings.

    It hardly seems worthwhile to point out the shortsightedness of those practitioners who would have us believe that the form of the poem is merely its shape. They argue that there is formal poetry and poetry without form -- free verse, in other words; that formal poetry has dimensions that are rhythmic or stanzaic, etc., and consequently measurable, while free verse exists as a sprawl whose disposition is arbitrary and is, as such, nonmeasurable. But if we have learned anything from the poetry of the last twenty or thirty years, it is that free verse is as formal as any other verse. There is ample evidence that it uses a full range of mnemonic devices, the most common being anaphoral and parallelistic structures, both as syntactically restrictive as they are rhythmically binding. I do not want to suggest that measured verse and free verse represent opposing mnemonics. I would rather we considered them together, both being structured or shaped and thus formal, or at least formal in outward, easily described ways.

    Form is manifested most clearly in the apparatus of argument and image or, put another way, plot and figures of speech. This aspect of form is more difficult to discuss because it is less clear-cut; it happens also to be the area in which poems achieve their greatest individuality and where, as a result, they are more personal. This being the case, how is it possible to apply ideas of craft? Well, we might say that mixed metaphors are bad, that contradictions, unless they constitute intentional paradox, must be avoided, that this or that image is inappropriate. All of which is either too vague, too narrow, or mostly beside the point -- although there are many creative-writing teachers who have no difficulty discussing these more variable and hidden characteristics of form. And I use the word "hidden" because somehow, when we approach the question of what a poem means, we are moving very close to its source or what brought it into being. To be sure, there is no easy prescription, like George Orwell's, of what to say and what not to say in a poem.

    . . .

    In discussing his poem "The Old Woman and the Statue," Wallace Stevens said:

    While there is nothing automatic about the poem, nevertheless it has an automatic aspect in the sense that it is what I wanted it to be without knowing before it was written what I wanted it to be, even though I knew before it was written what I wanted to do.

    This is as precise a statement of what is referred to as "the creative process" as I have ever read. And I think it makes clear why discussions of craft are at best precarious. We know only afterwards what it is we have done. Most poets, I think, are drawn to the unknown, and writing, for them, is a way of making the unknown visible. And if the object of one's quest is hidden or unknown, how is it to be approached by predictable means? I confess to a desire to forget knowing, especially when I sit down to work on a poem. The continuous transactions of craft take place in the dark. Jung understood this when he said: "As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition." And Stevens, when he said: "You have somehow to know the sound that is the exact sound: and you do in fact know, without knowing how. Your knowledge is irrational." This is not to say that rationality is wrong or bad, but merely that it has little to do with the making of poems (as opposed, say, to the understanding of poems). Even so rational a figure as Paul Valéry becomes oddly evasive when discussing the making of a poem. In his brilliant but peculiar essay "Poetry and Abstract Thought," he says the following:

    I have . . . noticed in myself certain states which I may well call poetic, since some of them were finally realized in poems. They came about from no apparent cause, arising from some accident or other; they developed according to their own nature, and consequently I found myself for a time jolted out of my habitual state of mind.

    And he goes on to say that "the state of poetry is completely irregular, inconstant, and fragile, and that we lose it, as we find it, by accident," and that "a poet is a man who, as a result of a certain incident, undergoes a hidden transformation." At its most comic, this is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation. And I suppose at its m........
    No poet has ever lived that wrote a "perfect " poem.....
    Man being an imperfect creature such must be the case.
    Tho' we celebrate those that we deem to have came close.. Question is, how accurate are with in that judgment?
    I laugh with others have boldly declared that the greatest poet that ever lived was William Shakespeare.
    Methinks that they somehow the word "playwright" with the word "poet".-Tyr
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    Mark Strand on Poetry and Poetics--from Essays and Interviews

    On Donald Justice

    From the very beginning Justice has fashioned his poems, honed them down, freed them of rhetorical excess and the weight, however gracefully sustained, of an elaborate diction. His self-indulgence, then, has been with the possibilities of the plain statement. His refusal to adopt any other mode but that which his subject demands--minimal, narcissist, negating--has nourished him. . . .

    If absence and loss are inescapable conditions of fife, the poem for Justice is an act of recovery. It synthesizes, for all its meagreness, what is with what is no longer; it conjures up a life that persists by denial, gathering strength from its hopelessness, and exists, finally and positively, as an emblem of survival.

    From Contemporary Poets. Ed. James Vinson. (St. Martin’s, 1980)

    On The Monument

    I strated writing The Monument and it became less and less about the translator of a particular text, and more about the translation of a self, and the text as self, the self as book.

    From an interview with Frank Graziano in Graziano, ed. Strand: A Profile (1979)

    From The Monument (1978)

    (#9)

    It has been necessary to submit to vacancy in order to begin again, to clear ground, to make space. I can allow nothing to be received. Therein lies my triumph and my mediocrity. Nothing is the destiny of everyone, it is our commonness made dumb. I am passing it on. The monument is a void, artless and everlasting. What I was I am no longer. I speak for nothing, the nothing that I am, the nothing that is this work. And you shall perpetuate me not in the name of what I was, but in the name of what I am.

    (#22)

    This poor document does not have to do with a self, it dwells on the absence of a self. I--and this pronoun will have to do--have not permitted anything worthwhile to be part of this communication that strains even to exist in a language other than the one in which it was written. So much is excluded that it could not be a document of self-centeredness. If it is a mirror to anything, it is to the gap between the nothing that was and the nothing that will be. It is a thread of longing that binds past and future. Again, it is everything that history is not.

    From "A Statement about Writing"

    Ideally, it would be best to just write, to suppress the critical side of my nature and indulge the expressive. Perhaps. But I tend to think of the expressive part of me as rather tedious--never curious or responsive, but blind and self-serving. And because it has no power, let alone appetite, for self-scrutiny, it fits the reductive, dominating needs of the critical side of me. The more I think about this, the more I think that not writing is the best way to write.

    Whether I admit it or not, I write to participate in the delusion of my own immortality which is born every minute. And yet, I write to resist myself. I find resistance irresistible. (317)

    In William Heyen, ed. The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets (1984)

    Introduction to the Poems in the Winter 1995-96
    Issue of Ploughshares

    I was very casual about the way I chose poems for this issue of Ploughshares. I asked a few friends--those I happened to be in touch with--for recent unpublished work. I picked what I wanted. Then I went through poems that had come directly to Ploughshares and which the editors thought would interest me. I recall that most of the poems which I chose came to me this way.

    I have no method for picking poems. I simply pick what pleases me. I am not concerned with truth, nor with conventional notions of what is beautiful. I tend to like poems that engage me--that is to say, which do not bore me. I like elaboration, but I am often taken by simplicity. Cadences move me, but flatness can also seduce. Sense, so long as it's not too familiar, is a pleasure, but so is nonsense when shrewdly exploited. Clearly, I have no set notion about what a poem ought to be.

    Editing a single issue of Ploughshares has not allowed me to reach any conclusions about the state of American poetry. American poetry still seems to be "out there," practiced by others in many different places and under many different conditions. The number of people writing poems is vast, and their reasons for doing so are many, that much can be surmised from the stacks of submissions. Whether or not this is a healthy state of affairs I cannot say. I simply don't know. And yet, in a culture like ours, which is given to material comforts, and addicted to forms of entertainment that offer immediate gratification, it is surprising that so much poetry is written. A great many people seem to think writing poetry is worthwhile, even though it pays next to nothing and is not as widely read as it should be. This is probably because it speaks for a level of experience unaccounted for by other literary genres or by popular forms of entertainment. So, perhaps, the fact that so many are writing poetry is a sign of health.

    Whatever the case, I hope that the poems I have chosen for this issue of Ploughshares find appreciative readers.

    source: http://www.emerson.edu/ploughshares/...and_Intro.html

    from An April 1999 Interview with Elizabeth Farnsworth on PBS

    ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I'm very interested in your ideas about how a poem works. You've said, "A poem releases itself, secretes itself slowly, sometimes almost poisonously, into the mind of the reader." How do you think poetry does that?

    MARK STRAND: Well, I think it -- a lot of it depends on the reader. The reader has to sort of give himself over to the poem and allow the poem to inhabit him and -- how does the poem do that? It does it by rearranging the world in such a way that it appears new. It does it by using language that is slightly different from the way language is used in the workday world, so tha you're forced to pay attention to it.

    [. . . .]

    ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you look for when you read a poem?

    MARK STRAND: I look for astonishment. I look to be moved, to have my view of the world in which I live somewhat changed, enlarged. I want both to belong more strongly to it or more emphatically to it, and yet, to be able to see it, to have -- well, it's almost a paradox to say this -- a more compassionate distance.

    from the complete interview go to http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/enter...tzer_4-15.html

    from "Notes on the Craft of Poetry"

    For some of us, the less said about the way we do things the better. And I for one am not even sure that I have a recognizable way of doing things, or if I did that I could talk about it. I do not have a secret method of writing, nor do I have a set of do's and don'ts. Each poem demands that I treat it differently from the rest, come to terms with it, seek out its own best beginning and ending. And yet I would be kidding myself if I believed that nothing continuous existed in the transactions between myself and my poems. I suppose this is what we mean by craft: those transactions that become so continuous we not only associate ourselves with them but allow them to represent the means by which we make art. But since they rarely declare themselves in procedural terms, how do we talk about them? To a large extent, these transactions I have chosen to call craft are the sole property of the individual poet and cannot be transferred to or adopted by others. One reason for this is that they are largely unknown at the time of writing and are discovered afterwards, if at all.

    . . .

    One essay that had great importance for me when I began to write was George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Reading it, I encountered for the first time a moral statement about good writing. True, Orwell was not considering the literary use of language, but language as an instrument for expressing thought. His point was that just as our English can become ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, so the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The following rules, he explains, can be relied upon when the writer is in doubt about the effect of a word or phrase and his instinct fails him.

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    These are of course very elementary rules and you could, as Orwell admits, keep all of them and still write bad English, though not as bad as you might have. But how far will they take us in the writing of a poem? And how much of that transaction I mentioned earlier is described by them? If following a simple set of rules guaranteed the success of a poem, poems would not be held in very high esteem, as, of course, they are. And far too many people would find it easy to write them, which, naturally, is not the case. For the poems that are of greatest value are those that inevitably, unselfconsciously break rules, poems whose urgency makes rules irrelevant.

    . . .

    I believe that all poetry is formal in that it exists within limits, limits that are either inherited by tradition or limits that language itself imposes. These limits exist in turn within the limits of the individual poet's conception of what is or is not a poem. For if the would-be poet has no idea what a poem is, then he has no standard for determining or qualifying his actions as a poet; i.e., his poem. "Form," it should be remembered, is a word that has several meanings, some of which are near opposites. Form has to do with the structure or outward appearance of something, but it also has to do with its essence. In discussions of poetry, form is a powerful word for just that reason: structure and essence seem to come together, as do the disposition of words and their meanings.

    It hardly seems worthwhile to point out the shortsightedness of those practitioners who would have us believe that the form of the poem is merely its shape. They argue that there is formal poetry and poetry without form -- free verse, in other words; that formal poetry has dimensions that are rhythmic or stanzaic, etc., and consequently measurable, while free verse exists as a sprawl whose disposition is arbitrary and is, as such, nonmeasurable. But if we have learned anything from the poetry of the last twenty or thirty years, it is that free verse is as formal as any other verse. There is ample evidence that it uses a full range of mnemonic devices, the most common being anaphoral and parallelistic structures, both as syntactically restrictive as they are rhythmically binding. I do not want to suggest that measured verse and free verse represent opposing mnemonics. I would rather we considered them together, both being structured or shaped and thus formal, or at least formal in outward, easily described ways.

    Form is manifested most clearly in the apparatus of argument and image or, put another way, plot and figures of speech. This aspect of form is more difficult to discuss because it is less clear-cut; it happens also to be the area in which poems achieve their greatest individuality and where, as a result, they are more personal. This being the case, how is it possible to apply ideas of craft? Well, we might say that mixed metaphors are bad, that contradictions, unless they constitute intentional paradox, must be avoided, that this or that image is inappropriate. All of which is either too vague, too narrow, or mostly beside the point -- although there are many creative-writing teachers who have no difficulty discussing these more variable and hidden characteristics of form. And I use the word "hidden" because somehow, when we approach the question of what a poem means, we are moving very close to its source or what brought it into being. To be sure, there is no easy prescription, like George Orwell's, of what to say and what not to say in a poem.

    . . .

    In discussing his poem "The Old Woman and the Statue," Wallace Stevens said:

    While there is nothing automatic about the poem, nevertheless it has an automatic aspect in the sense that it is what I wanted it to be without knowing before it was written what I wanted it to be, even though I knew before it was written what I wanted to do.

    This is as precise a statement of what is referred to as "the creative process" as I have ever read. And I think it makes clear why discussions of craft are at best precarious. We know only afterwards what it is we have done. Most poets, I think, are drawn to the unknown, and writing, for them, is a way of making the unknown visible. And if the object of one's quest is hidden or unknown, how is it to be approached by predictable means? I confess to a desire to forget knowing, especially when I sit down to work on a poem. The continuous transactions of craft take place in the dark. Jung understood this when he said: "As long as we ourselves are caught up in the process of creation, we neither see nor understand; indeed we ought not to understand, for nothing is more injurious to immediate experience than cognition." And Stevens, when he said: "You have somehow to know the sound that is the exact sound: and you do in fact know, without knowing how. Your knowledge is irrational." This is not to say that rationality is wrong or bad, but merely that it has little to do with the making of poems (as opposed, say, to the understanding of poems). Even so rational a figure as Paul Valéry becomes oddly evasive when discussing the making of a poem. In his brilliant but peculiar essay "Poetry and Abstract Thought," he says the following:

    I have . . . noticed in myself certain states which I may well call poetic, since some of them were finally realized in poems. They came about from no apparent cause, arising from some accident or other; they developed according to their own nature, and consequently I found myself for a time jolted out of my habitual state of mind.

    And he goes on to say that "the state of poetry is completely irregular, inconstant, and fragile, and that we lose it, as we find it, by accident," and that "a poet is a man who, as a result of a certain incident, undergoes a hidden transformation." At its most comic, this is a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation. And I suppose at its m........
    No poet has ever lived that wrote a "perfect " poem.....
    Man being an imperfect creature such must be the case.
    Tho' we celebrate those that we deem to have came close.. Question is, how accurate are with in that judgment?
    I laugh with others have boldly declared that the greatest poet that ever lived was William Shakespeare.
    Methinks that they somehow the word "playwright" with the word "poet".-Tyr
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    Can Poetry Matter?
    Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world, they can work to make it essential once more

    MAY 1991 ISSUE

    American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.
    What makes the situation of contemporary poets particularly surprising is that it comes at a moment of unprecedented expansion for the art. There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines. Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet. There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels. Congress has even instituted the position of poet laureate, as have twenty-five states. One also finds a complex network of public subvention for poets, funded by federal, state, and local agencies, augmented by private support in the form of foundation fellowships, prizes, and subsidized retreats. There has also never before been so much published criticism about contemporary poetry; it fills dozens of literary newsletters and scholarly journals.
    The proliferation of new poetry and poetry programs is astounding by any historical measure. Just under a thousand new collections of verse are published each year, in addition to a myriad of new poems printed in magazines both small and large. No one knows how many poetry readings take place each year, but surely the total must run into the tens of thousands. And there are now about 200 graduate creative-writing programs in the United States, and more than a thousand undergraduate ones. With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.

    But the poetry boom has been a distressingly confined phenomenon. Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities, these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse. Consequently, the energy of .....
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    Poetry is going extinct, government data show

    By Christopher Ingraham April 24, 2015


    Flickr user Stefan Powell.
    Is verse a dying technique? How dead is poetry? Who killed poetry? Does anybody care? Is poetry dead? Is poetry dead? Is poetry dead?

    Inquiries into the death of poetry comprise a tradition almost as rich and varied as American poetry itself. Earlier this month, a college literary magazine proposed a tidy solution to the evergreen problem: "if you have to keep declaring, over and over, that poetry is dead, it can’t actually be dead."

    Fair enough. Most of discussion around the question involves qualitative assessments that are inherently unsolvable. Is poetry too political, or not political enough? Is it too popular, or too elitist? Too pretentious or too profane?

    I can't answer any of these questions. But there are a number of facts about poetry that are knowable, and given that April is National Poetry Month (which I bet you didn't know), now would be a good time to know them.


    The first is that ever-elusive question of readership: does anyone read poetry anymore? Given the widespread availability of poetry on the internet, "it’s possible that poetry’s audience might be greater now than ever," wrote Kate Angus in The Millions last year. But the numbers below show that that's emphatically not the case. Some people are still reading it, although that number has been dropping steadily over the past two decades.


    In 1992, 17 percent of Americans had read a work of poetry at least once in the past year. 20 years later that number had fallen by more than half, to 6.7 percent. Those numbers come from the national Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), a massive survey that's run every few years as part of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.

    The survey finds that the decline in poetry readership is unique among the arts -- particularly the literary arts. "Since 2002, the share of poetry-readers has contracted by 45 percent—resulting in the steepest decline in participation in any literary genre," the study concludes. Over the past 20 years, the downward trend is nearly perfectly linear -- and doesn't show signs of abating.

    ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
    And not noted is that our liberal education system is graduating students from high school that can barely even read, let alone read and understand poetry. This steep decline, in regards to education system is that said education system , no longer teaches to improve the mind, improve intellect - but instead puts its most effort into brainwashing our children into being liberal minded robots.
    I'll say no more as , politics is to be kept out of this sub-forum but in this case politics and our liberal designed/controlled public education system are the two main culprits, IMHO.
    I get that not everybody likes poetry, and that is ok with me, as four of my own brothers think its sissy junk, but a true in-depth look at poetry, its rich history and how it has positively affected hundreds of millions of people proves that ids indeed a very worthy and a much needed art form.--Tyr
    Last edited by Tyr-Ziu Saxnot; 11-29-2018 at 07:53 AM.
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    EDUCATION
    Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important
    The oft-neglected literary form can help students learn in ways that prose can't.


    ANDREW SIMMONS
    APR 8, 2014


    Poetry is far more than Dead Poets Society .TOUCHSTONE PICTURES
    16 years after enjoying a high school literary education rich in poetry, I am a literature teacher who barely teaches it. So far this year, my 12th grade literature students have read nearly 200,000 words for my class. Poems have accounted for no more than 100.

    This is a shame—not just because poetry is important to teach, but also because poetry is important for the teaching of writing and reading.

    High school poetry suffers from an image problem. Think of Dead Poet’s Society's scenes of red-cheeked lads standing on desks and reciting verse, or of dowdy Dickinson imitators mooning on park benches, filling up journals with noxious chapbook fodder. There’s also the tired lessons about iambic pentameter and teachers wringing interpretations from cryptic stanzas, their students bewildered and chuckling. Reading poetry is impractical, even frivolous. High school poets are antisocial and effete.

    I have always rejected these clichéd mischaracterizations born of ignorance, bad movies, and uninspired teaching. Yet I haven’t been stirred to fill my lessons with Pound and Eliot as my 11th grade teacher did. I loved poetry in high school. I wrote it. I read it. Today, I slip scripture into an analysis of The Day of the Locust. A Nikki Giovanni piece appears in The Bluest Eye unit. Poetry has become an afterthought, a supplement, not something to study on its own.

    In an education landscape that dramatically deemphasizes creative expression in favor of expository writing and prioritizes the analysis of non-literary texts, high school literature teachers have to negotiate between their preferences and the way the wind is blowing. That sometimes means sacrifice, and poetry is often the first head to roll.

    Yet poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text. Poetry can give students a healthy outlet for surging emotions. Reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills that are often neglected in high school literature classes.
    Students who don’t like writing essays may like poetry, with its dearth of fixed rules and its kinship with rap. For these students, poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing. It can help teach skills that come in handy with other kinds of writing—like precise, economical diction, for example. When Carl Sandburg writes, “The fog comes/on little cat feet,” in just six words, he endows a natural phenomenon with character, a pace, and a spirit. All forms of writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems.

    I have used cut-up poetry (a variation on the sort “popularized” by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin) to teach 9th grade students, most of whom learned English as a second language, about grammar and literary devices. They made collages after slicing up dozens of “sources,” identifying the adjectives and adverbs, utilizing parallel structure, alliteration, assonance, and other figures of speech. Short poems make a complete textual analysis more manageable for English language learners. When teaching students to read and evaluate every single word of a text, it makes sense to demonstrate the practice with a brief poem—like Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”

    Students can learn how to utilize grammar in their own writing by studying how poets do—and do not—abide by traditional writing rules in their work. Poetry can teach writing and grammar conventions by showing what happens when poets strip them away or pervert them for effect. Dickinson often capitalizes common nouns and uses dashes instead of commas to note sudden shifts in focus. Agee uses colons to create dramatic, speech-like pauses. Cummings of course rebels completely. He usually eschews capitalization in his proto-text message poetry, wrapping frequent asides in parentheses and leaving last lines dangling on their pages, period-less. In “next to of course god america i,” Cummings strings together, in the first 13 lines, a cavalcade of jingoistic catch-phrases a politician might utter, and the lack of punctuation slowing down and organizing the assault accentuates their unintelligibility and banality and heightens the satire. The abuse of conventions helps make the point. In class, it can help a teacher expl......
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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    The Importance Of Poetry
    It's the key to happiness.



    Poetry is an art form that has survived for thousands and thousands of years. We study it in school and we hear quotes from poems scattered throughout our life. But do we ever truly make meaning of it? Does it even matter? My answer to you is yes it does. Reading poetry and or writing poetry can drastically improve your life, because it has improved mine. In this article I will attempt to articulate why poetry is important to read and also to write

    Reading Poetry

    Poetry is one of the most powerful forms of writing because it takes the english language, a language we believe we know, and transforms it. Suddenly the words do not sound the same or mean the same. The pattern of the sentences sound new and melodious. It is truly another language exclusively for the writer and the reader. No poem can be read in the same way, because the words mean something different to each of us. For this reason, many find poetry and elusive art form. However, the issue in understanding poetry lies in how you read poetry. Reading it logically results in an overall comprehension, rigid and unchanging. However, reading it emotionally allows the nuances and paradoxes to enter our understanding. Anyone who writes poetry can attest, you have to write it with an open heart. So as a reader, we must do the same. All poems are insights into the most intimate inner workings of the writer's mind and soul. To read it coldly and rationally would be shutting the door on the relationship that the writer is attempting to forge with you. Opening your heart to poetry is the only way to get fulfillment from it.


    If you imagine poetry as a journey, you must be willing to trust the writer to guide you. Unwilling readers will never experience every part of the adventure in the same way open minded readers do. The journey may be filled with dead ends and suffering or endless joy and happiness. And still, you go. You pick up the poem, you read, you listen, and you feel.

    In our culture we are experiencing a crisis where American people are the unhappiest people in the world statistically. How do we solve this? I answer: Mindfullness, gratitude, and poetry.

    Writing Poetry

    From a writer’s perspective, writing poetry can be equally elusive as reading poetry. When I first started writing poetry, the advice I always heard was practice, find your voice, keep a journal. I did all these things but still my poems were flat and inert. What was I missing? I poured over poems by Angelou, Shakespeare, Austen, and Wilde looking for a pattern, something I could emulate. This was the problem. I was unwilling to open my heart. I thought poetry could be a mask I could craft. But no matter how beautiful I made it, it would never come to life. It would never fit on another person’s face. It did not eve fit on mine.........
    18 U.S. Code § 2381-Treason Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

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