Saturday, March 13, 2004

Anthony Robinson joins my blogroll, and has some bones to pick about my little grid below. I already said it was subjective, but with that major caveat out of the way:

1) Feel free to put Chaucer on the grid, but the thing about most dead poets, especially the long dead, is that their historicity tends to trump this (obviously spatial) method of classification. I already know what Chaucer is "for," and don't need therefore to "place" him this way. Which doesn't mean I couldn't learn something from doing that or that it isn't kind of too bad that I can no longer read Chaucer "naively." The naivete of my little grid is, I think, its primary virtue and limitation.

2) Chaucer and Koch are both -x, +y. Do they have anything else in common? A more interesting comparison that comes to mind is Spenser and Koch; I'm thinking of Koch's book of apostrophes to abstract entities, which for me parallels the oddities that result from the extreme anthropomorphization that goes on with Spenser's allegorical figures. (Spenser is +x, +y though).

3) "Funny" and "serious" are for me entirely questions of tone. To be more precise, in the "experimental" work that I'm applying this grid to, the x axis describes the spirit in which logopoetic play, in all its varieties, is embarked upon. When Susan Howe etymologizes a word, she tends to be +x; when Lisa Jarnot structures a Steinian repetition of "little hot chickens," she's being -x. Which does not mean that the poem in which she does this has no "serious" or political intent. I'm tracking a particular effect (or affect) which helps me manage the ever-expanding library of contemporary poetry that I'm carrying around in my head.

4) I have no idea if anyone other than me would find this model useful. But I put it up because I'm curious about the means people employ to manage the sheer prolificness of the innovative poetry scene. When you attune your antennae to small press publishing, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed. I should point out too that I do not particularly favor any one of these vectors—there are poets in all four that I value. Plus the setting of bounds immediately creates a zone beyond bounds: poetry that defeats this mode of classification becomes immediately especially interesting to me. Jarnot is already complicated, as I noted below—and you can see how I've tried to domesticate her a little bit above; an unfortunate side-effect of systems-making, even a deliberately crude and rudimentary system such as this one. But I'm intrigued by poets who might dialectically confound these categories. Are there Baroque Minimalists? Austere Maximalists? The x vector seems more a question of that tone/intent distinction: funny writing for serious ends (the reverse is hard to imagine, except as parody).

I hope people will come up with/admit to their own grids and post them!

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