Sunday, October 08, 2006

Comment I wrote on Josh Corey's page

This is the article I responded to:

It's by Tony Hoaglund.

(Funny - my mom's maiden name is Haglund. Also the head of the Christian Democrats is Hägglund).


I disagree with your assessment of Hoagland's article. To begin with he approaching collage with a basic presumption that modes of writing either make sense (in a very narrow, conventional way pertaining to expression of the individual or "the age") or does not. He tames the sense-making modes (the first four) by using fairly conventional poetic examples and then he caricatures the last, (as he admits it himself) "catch-all" category of indeterminacy.

It is this last category that he reserves for criticism. The others he can recuperate for a conventional poetics of expression.

I also disagree with his assertion that unless a poem is an expression it has "indeterminacy" as the "desired effect." In many cases, people write poems that may seem indeterminate to Tony H, but certainly does not have that indeterminacy as "desired effect." Is it possible that there is poetry that is less concerned about this sense of final, closed-off, stable "effect".

I think he's right that a vague sense of indeterminacy has become a popular style. I've written about that elsewhere. The way some poets basically seem to recreate the de-politicized Keatsian negative capability as "indeterminacy". However, I think he's setting this up as a false straw-poet in order to dismiss a poetic practice that is not concerned with his ideas of expression. It's the same thing that happens when people criticize Ashbery for being too abstruse. It's not Ashbery they are attacking (he's quite beyond Tony Hoagland's reach), but any number of other poets who do not confirm to his simple notion of "desired effect."

Finally, I also find he uses a method I've seen used in a lot of places. He claims collage is experiencing a "renaissance" as if American poetry once embraced Apollinaire etc and then outgrew up. I remember Reginald Sheppherd used the same rhetoric when he debated you a year or two ago. Ie "This was done by some poets back in 1913, why repeat it? Lets go on writing dull poetry that suggests these people never wrote at all."

If you want to teach your students about collage there are much better texts. To begin with, the primary texts of Apollinaire, Tzara, Eisenstein and others. Perloff's essays in "Futurist Moment" are easy to read and do a better job of engaging with some of the other implications and scandals without (mostly) depending on "desired effect."


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