Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Miraculous"

This is in response to my previous post about Clement Greenberg and the comments it responded, particularly from Archambeau:

If the "avant-garde" has been resistant to the "miraculous," I should mention that it seems to me that it has been the primary goal of the workshops to eliminate "the miraculous" - to teach everyone to write tasteful poems. Thus the post-1960s avant-garde and the post-1960s workshop poetry - traditionally seen as opposite - seem to have a common opponent in the iconophilic 1960s collapse of high/low divide (Dylan, happenings, Godard, Jack Smith etc).

The workshop seems to have almost explicitly sought to re-establish poetry as the realm of the "real", opposed to "the miraculous" of low, mass culture. This is to a large extent what I take it to mean when people like Tony Hoagland criticizes "the surrealist excess of the 1960s" (the "miraculous" sounds a lot like "the marvelous").

It always annoys me when conservative folks like Hoagland blames high modernism for the loss of popularity of poetry in this country, when it seems to me a far greater blame should go to the workshop pedagogy, for which teaching poetry means teaching the masses not to go "too far," to have to earn their images, to not be in other words "miraculous."


Blogger Ross Brighton said...

The other think that happens I think is that he use of "miraculous" or pop-culture stuff gets reterritorialized either by the reader/viewer, or the guardians of taste as "ok" because it is "high art" (cf Sontag on Smith) .... if i may echo Kent's parallels w. the visual arts.... it happens there as well, one only needs to look at Tracy Emin's work there, for "Bad Taste" - spelling mistakes, crude drawings, taking the piss.... but then it's art. It's atacks on it's audience are aknowledged with a nod, a stroke of the chin, a "yes, interesting" (Same with one of my favorite NZ artists, Ronnie Van Haut, who sets up elaborate puns, stupid jokes, references to punk-rock songs etc - at his recent show i was amazed that I was one of the only ones giggling at pieces with titles like "failed robot", or a guy in a banana costume holding a placard that said "no").

What happens then?

3:57 PM  
Blogger Archambeau said...

I imagine the general run of workshop classes probably does err in being anti-marvelous, anti-Dionysian, and all the rest. My only experiences were different, though -- in John Matthias' classes. I remember him pushing us to get beyond what seemed sensible to us. In particular, I remember telling him I liked Philip Larkin, because (I thought at the time) there was nothing in his poems that didn't belong there. "Yes," said John, "that's his limitation."



10:44 AM  

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