Thursday, February 14, 2008

the post-avant debate

is too annoying for me to even get involved with.

The New Critics claimed to be post-avant as well.

But the thing I find totally perplexing is this idea that there is not "outside" and no "inside". I don't see how that's possible. That's really not how poetry works.

Also, that everybody is a stylist/formalist. If that's the way you read poetry, then that's what you're going to find.


Blogger Max said...

It seems to me that the only reason why a person should be interested in these distinctions is if it helps him/her better understand his/her own personal aesthetic, why he/she likes or writes one thing and not another. All the mindless dickwagging has no point, especially if these definitions and distinctions have absolutely no utility for you. I know they mean virtually nothing to me, and don't really help shape any of my sensibilities, other than the sensibility which tells me that those engaging in the debate are absolute fuckwits.

But I guess that's just me.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Sandra Simonds said...

Last night I read through the entire 100 plus comments on the Harriet blog as well as the initial post that sparked the brushfire.

I can tell you that it was a thoroughly mind numbing exercise!

(and I do not recommend it to anyone).

5:35 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

I hadn't realized that the New Critics, or some of them, had claimed directly to be post-avant. It makes sense, of course, now that I think about it. Can you direct me to any specific references they made about that? I'd love to read them.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


I meant very generally their rhetoric toward the experimentalism of the 20s was - this had good points but now we're past it, now is the time to get rid of the excesses of that era (and its politics). And thus posed themselves as modernists. Cary Nelson talks about that in his book Repression and so does Jed in Wax Museum. They never used the word post-avant - I just mean that general rhetorical trope of claiming to be "post" something, to have outgrown it in some way.

Another example: a lot of people batted around the phrase "post-language" when I was in Iowa, but it struck me as strange because it was generally said by people who didn't like language poetry and had never been language poets so to speak - never really engaged with that stuff. So it was rather a way of saying, we're past it, we don't want to deal with it.

These seem part of a general rhetorical strategy.

Of course this doesn't apply to Silliman, who has his own agenda with these kinds of terms.

11:24 AM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

Thanks, Johannes. I do know those books, though it's been awhile. I was hoping maybe to get a quote from someone like Ransome, say, talking about Williams or Stein or Pound etc directly.

I hate to admit this here, sort of, but I think I'm the first one to use the term "postlanguage," in an essay I wrote (available at the Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center, I think) called "Emerging Avant Garde Poetries and the 'Post-Language Crisis'" some time in the early 90s. I hardly meant that anybody was "over" language poetry, of course, or that up-and-coming writers could do without knowing about it.

11:47 AM  

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