Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If you haven't already read them, check out Kasey's incisive critique of the new Sarabande anthology and Steve Evans' ongoing investigation of the conservative backlash driving powerful forces in the poetics and politics of our era.

As far as the anthology goes, I'm reserving a quantity of judgment, since I haven't actually read the thing, and it contains the work of many, many poets whose writing I admire. But I think Kasey's analysis of the title, the editors' statement, the cover, and the overall packaging/positioning of the book is brilliant. The single most practical insight I'm taking from his post, to file away for any future anthology editing I myself might attempt, is the importance of not letting consensus (between oneself and any partner editors, between oneself and the critical establishment) be the sole order of the day. It's the exact same affliction that can turn a poetry workshop—that supposed refuge for creativity—to become an enforcer of conformity. It's a structural problem that good intentions alone will never fully overcome.

I do think there's a place for anthologies such as this, organized along age or whatnot, as a means of introducing contemporary, living poetry to people who might not otherwise know where to start. At the same time, such enterprises will always have a whiff of the textbook, which is why I think in any future poetry classes I teach there can be no substitute for having the students read current books, journals, and webzines.


Thanks to all who have expressed their good wishes about my engagement. It's very strange how rapidly such a thing turns from a celebration of love to an elaborate exercise in party planning: a vocation I'd heretofore had very little interest in. Wish us luck.

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