Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hangman and Hoaglund

There is a new hangman out.

It's got some poems by Danielle, Borzutzky, Dan Hoy, Jessica B. and some other writers I know.

It also has an essay about Steve Orlen by Tony Hoaglund which I find very disingenious the way I thought Hoaglund's essay about montage was disingenious (I wrote about that elsewhere on this blog.

Here's a quote:
"Aesthetically, Steve and Jon were part of a larger movement of that era in American poetry, a shift away from the poetry of image and flashy morbid surrealism, towards a meditative narrative voice. (You can read about that movement in an essay by Ira Sadoff, published around that time in American Poetry Review). Jon and Steve had invented a label for their style of poetry; they called themselves Sincerists, and they seemed to mean it. They wrote poems to each other, they met for drinks after workshop, they talked about their feelings without irony. They were the post-James Wright/Robert Bly generation. And Jon, that semester, taught Wright’s book Two Citizens. in his seminar, for its passion, and its artlessness."

So my concerns are:

1. What makes Surrealism "flashy" or "morbid"? Compared to what? Hoaglund tends to posits a natural state of poetry (artless and passionate), compared to which other poetries are flashy or excessive in some other way.

2. The idealization of artlessness in language is the surest sign of provincialism.

3. To suggest that all American poetry was dominated by this "flashy morbid surrealism" also seems historically a bit dubious. Certainly Surrealism was an influence on a lot of poets - Plath, Merwin, Knott - but to suggest that American Poetry as a whole had turned hardline Surrealist would be like saying all of American Poetry is now dominated by language poetry. It is also a bit strange that he posits Wright and Bly as opposites of Surrealism, when in fact they both helped import Surrealism (though one may not agree with the way they did it).


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