Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm not Tony Hoagland's biggest fan, but this article, "Fragment, Juxtaposition, And Completeness: Some Notes And Preferences" from The Cortland Review on the uses and abuses of fragment and collage is quite useful and balanced: I would happily give it to undergraduates to whom I was teaching collage as a mode. When I come across an article by Hoagland I'm usually waiting the entire time for the other shoe to drop: for him to come out and express his preference for the easiest and most accessible kinds of poetry, and to dismiss other modes as highfalutin'. (The title of the book his essay comes from, Real Sofistikashun: Essays on Poetry and Craft, is an example of the kind of pseudopopulism and false self-deprecation that I find so irritating.) But here Hoagland only gently questions the rising popularity of collage as a mode, and he raises a pertinent point of comparison that should have us all thinking: "Contemporarily, in some poetic circles, fracture and breakage have become the techniques by which authenticity and energy is certified—perhaps not much differently from the way in which explicit confession was used in the past to certify poetic authenticity." Also, his counterexample is one I find easy to embrace: Allen Grossman's weirdly skewed and prophetic poetry, which performs its feats of wonder within the bounds of normative grammar and syntax, leaving Hoagland to conclude, "The powers of complex coherence, visible in Grossman's poem and available to all of us, shouldn't be lightly abandoned, or shunned." He's absolutely right. But it's as yet sadly rare to find arguments of this sort for the broadening and deepening of the palette/palate, as opposed to mortar shells of snark and dudgeon inaccurately lobbed from one camp to the other.

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