Thursday, April 22, 2004

An extremely useful and provocative collection of responses to questions about the state of contemporary American poetry—hosted by Joan Houlihan—is very much worth your attention. I find there's kind a favorite-Beatle effect in reading the commentators: do I identify more with the philosophical stylings of Oren Izenberg, the matter-of-factness of Norman Finkelstein, the will-to-categorical-power of Stephen Burt, the knowledgable contemporary analysis of Alan Golding, the anti-militaristic stance of H.L. Hix, the sheer contentiousness of Kent Johnson, or the prolix punk comedy of Joe Amato? Right now Joe's Yellow Submarine strikes me as the ship I'd be most eager to board: has there been a more prolifically pastoral pop group than the Beatles? From the octopus' garden to Strawberry Fields, their songs are 3 to 5 minute promesses du bonheur. The band itself seemed to be a little alternative society, centered on the good-natured musical duels of John and Paul: call 'em the Corydon and Thrysis of the 60s.

Well, I won't try to paraphrase any of the contributors' arguments further; they're well worth reading for themselves. Kudos to Joan for making this dialogue possible—though I wonder what she herself makes of it all. Will she agree, for example, with Izenberg's very reasonable claim that "a collection of individual, unconnected lines" is a contradiction in terms? Perhaps she'll join the discussion later.

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