Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Aaron writes:
It seems to me that drawing lines is an inherently dangerous activity. Sure, it's convenient and even interesting to say "X has been influenced by [pick influential bigname poet]" but when history ends up remembering poets as either (post) Language or (post) NY School, what happens to those who don't fit so neatly?

This is theoretical ground I am nearly entirely unschooled in, so I'm only going on instinct & observation. But it seems to me that the entire enterprise is one of control - as you say, to establish hegemony. Why not erase or ignore the hegemony entirely and let everything sort itself out? That seems to me like a better environment for poetry, rather than one that relies on division.

(I'm not arguing, by the way, that it's fruitless or bad to recognize "movements" or styles as they occur(rred) organically. Just that it's maybe a little too something-or-other to rely on the labels too much. I mean, the influence of the New American Anthology - huge as it's been - could have been significantly different if Allen had made Rexroth the central figure, rather than Olson, which is what I read somewhere or other).
And I reply:
As for letting everything sort itself out goes, I think the point is that you are either actively engaged in doing the sorting or else you let some other agent(s) sort you. Hegemony can't be erased or
ignored; the most you can hope for is to diffuse it or defuse it, to render the space of hegemony unstable and open to the broadest possible range of hegemons: that is, democracy. For me that means always struggling to welcome more people into poetry-as-adventure-in-language WITHOUT compromising that adventure's possibilities—for truth and beauty, above all.

Yeah, labels suck, they're not labile enough. And to paraphrase Frank O'Hara, if people don't need labels bully for them. I just worry that simply pretending these social and aesthetic categories don't exist leaves you vulnerable to mystification. The trick is to put yourself in the subjective position without necessarily putting others in the object position--it's a hell of a trick and I'm not sure how to pull it off.

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