Thursday, July 31, 2008

Simic, Tate, Edson, Knott etc

These guys are all good poets as far as I'm concerned. I don't love either one, but they're good, all at times interesting. Knott wrote great poems about the Vietnam War. Simic had a couple of good collections in the early 90s (the prose poems in particular, though like I said, the silliness gets in the way) and translated Vasko Popa, one of my all-time favorites. Tate seems actually to be writing his best poems right now - strange psychotic blankness.

However, it's strange that they came up on the blog today because it's been ages since I even thought about any poets of that generation.

All the poets I'm looking forward to reading these days are less than 40, often less than 30: Cathy Wagner, Ariana Reines, Jon Leon, Aaron Kunin, Dark Brandon, Danielle Pafunda, Don Mee Choi, Joyelle (who is currently writing a big intermedia project on babies who do "hazings") etc. And the same seems to be true in poetry from Sweden. I've just become totally ageist.

The two exceptions I can think of right now are Alice Notley and Clayton Eshleman, both of whom are writing their most interesting poetry right now. And John Wilkinson if you include the English. And Ann Jäderlund if we include Sweden. The two last one are a bit younger than the two first ones, but still, they're above 40.

When did this happen? When did I start to ignore my elders?


Blogger ryan said...

the asian rebecca romijn

7:07 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

Maybe you don't trust people over 40?

7:55 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

I'd be interested in your take on P. Inman and Tina Darragh.

9:14 PM  
Blogger rodney k said...

Hi Johannes,

I’m sure the neglect of the elders is a regular stage-of-life thing, but I’ve been thinking lately too how quickly the blogs and la vie Internet are shifting our time-sense, so that poets who came of age even as late as the ‘90s feel quaint and slightly antiquated to me already. Looking back to the elders may be coming to feel like looking back six months on a blog roll—who needs yesterday’s papers?

If I’m right, I should say I’m value-neutral about the change—it’s just a change, not a decline, and a fact either way whether I like it or not—but that’s not entirely true. The way poetry’s normally preserved and transmitted is through a sort of informal underground protection of the elders—a minyan of the freakishly committed— that shelters them until the university finds them. Is that still happening as our attentions stretch out more horizontally online? Probably I guess, it’s just no easier to see than it was before, despite the Internet’s promise that you just might be able to see just about everything.

The poetries I find myself most interesting these days are the ones that try to tackle that new time-sense on the level of meter or ‘tude, but the big challenge I think is won’t it look like yesterday’s papers soon, too? Or is all “Tradition” yesterday’s papers yellowed until they look quaint and antique, take on the sexy aura of the archive?

8:12 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I don't understand the the Rebecca Romijin statements.

Rodney, I think the Internet has had a huge effect.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


I haven't read those poets. Tell me what to read and I'll look them up. I'm just about to finish my last two papers I'm going to write in a long time and I want to read poetry again.

9:16 AM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

There's a good P. Inman page at the Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center and it links to some available books. Vel or Red Shift are good places to start.

Getting Tina's work right now might be more difficult. If you google Tina Darragh, you can go to a good article about her work by Doug Lang, and she also seems to have a small Wikipedia entry. If you want I could just put you in touch with her by e-mail.

I'd put the links up here but links don't seem to work when I put them in comment boxes.

I think their work will be very useful in thinking about what "avant garde" has meant in the last 20 years of American poetry, and what it might mean to look back to an earlier generation. Simic, Tate, Edson, and Knott aren't poets that mean that much to me and I think there's other work out there that's worth looking towards.

If I can point you further, let me know.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Tate's new book is pretty good, isn't it?

You might like Tina Darragh's Leave chap -- if I remember correctly it's a series of historical meditations as concrete poems in the diagram of an Ames room...

2:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

you're right not to read me,

but can i point out one diff between me and Simic Tate Edson etc——

they make people pay money to buy their books to read their poems,

and i give mine away free——

(that fact doesn't make me readable, of course)

10:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Johannes, you obviously can ignore my questions, but i'm asking:

when you say the Vietnam poems i wrote were good,

do you mean "in comparison" to the antiwar poems i wrote later; are you saying "his vietpoems were good, but his later Gulf War poems weren't"——

the political poems i wrote in the viettime were good,

but all the political poems i've written since weren't/aren't good——

maybe the "collected political poems" book i have posted on my blog (and which can be downloaded free as a pdf) is mostly worthless,

but at least i tried to write them——

i tried and failed——

12:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

mostly or totally worthless

12:26 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...


No, I like your other poems too, just not as much as the rabid piano poems. Or the Were-Age. I think those are super.

To be honest I'm not sure I've read your Iraq War poems. As I wrote in this post, I simply have become an ageist. I hope you understand. It can happen to anyone.

Why don't you send me your Iraq Poems and I'll send you my being-a-damned-immigrant Poems? I'll tell you if your Iraq poems measure up to your Vietnam poems and you can tell me if my immigrant poems measure up to the Mall of America.

Also, I like Thomas Tranströmer's translations of your Naomi-poems.


3:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Johannes, send your postal address

and I'll forward a copy (bound and printed from

in the mail . . .

9:44 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

. . . Johannes, your "ageism" is understandable to me ... if it's a shortcoming, it's one i also suffered from——

at some point years ago i too stopped reading the generation of living poets older than me—— the 28ers i call them, so many of them born in 1928 at the crest of a postwar economic boom in the USA . . . i don't deny their greatness, but i had to try to forge my own

maybe there's some truth or tactic of survival in this observation by Nicanor Parra:

"The more we read, the less we write."

or the Turkish poet Daglarca's little poem:

The Idiot

Is wisdom
Lack of it
Is ancient wisdom

(trans. Talat S. Halman)


6:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

to forge my own lack of it,

that is.

7:01 AM  

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