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The hybrid-way or the highway

By Don Share

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The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word “hybrid” comes from the Latin hibrida – the offspring of a tame sow and wild boar. There are lots of citations of Darwin, but we won’t go there; now, I’m not the guy who just finished reading the entire OED, but it looks to me as though the word has fewer citations from poets than almost any other I can find. It’s quite curious, then, to find Cole Swensen disputing the notion of a fundamental division in American poetry, and proposing that “the model of binary opposition is no longer the most accurate one and that, while extremes remain, and everywhere we find complex aesthetic and ideological differences, the contemporary moment is dominated by rich writings that cannot be categorized, and that hybridize core attributes of previous ‘camps’ in diverse and unprecedented ways.”


She says this in the introduction to the forthcoming anthology, American Hybrid, from Norton, whose mention with regard to a recent book of sonnets did turn polarizing on Ron Silliman’s blog. Anyway, she chronicles what happened between The New American Poetry (we miss you, Reginald!) and its 1982 sequel, The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry and concludes that by the time Donald Allen (with George Butterick) assembled the latter, “the opposition had all but joined him.” Opposition to this new mainstream came from so-called neo-Formalists and anti-New-Critical Language poets alike. We can quibble about nomenclature here; you can dig out stuff Cleanth Brooks said about the complex unity of poems that I’m sure still haunts work by the languagey folks – and on the other hand, hardly anybody actually owns up to being a “neo-” Formalist. Swensen argues, at any rate, that the old opposition, though it has not evaporated, has broken down: “The products of contradictory traditions, today’s writers often take aspects from two or more to create poetry that is truly post-modern in that it’s an unpredictable and unprecedented mix.”
I think she’s right (except about the unpredictable part, unfortunately). Poems written today are “hybrids” – they “might engage such conventional approaches as narrative that presumes a stable first person, yet complicate it by disrupting the linear temporal path or by scrambling the normal syntactical sequence. Or it might foreground recognizably experimental modes such as illogicality or fragmentation, yet follow the strict formal rules of a sonnet or villanelle. Or it might be composed entirely of neologisms but based in ancient traditions.” This strikes me (I see a lot of poems, needless to say) as empirically true. Yet I’m pretty sure everyone’s going to resist the notion of a hybrid poem. Partly it will be because if you spend years grinding an ax, you’re not just going to hang it up for good. And partly it’s because readers will search this new anthology (co-edited, by the way, with David St. John), for evidence, and will discover Robert Hass (I will never understand why those who think there is a “School of Quietude” think Hass is not at the head of the class), Albert Goldbarth, and Mary Jo Bang being placed alongside – uncomfortably, I’d say – Alice Notley, Norma Cole, and Etel Adnan. Perhaps unavoidably, the book includes poets who would turn up in almost any old contemporary anthology: Jorie Graham, John Ashbery, Rae Armantrout, Barbara Guest, Dean Young, C.D. Wright… Even Reginald Shepherd is included, he who in a way, beat these new compilers to the punch with his own anthologizing.
But we shouldn’t let the table of contents obscure the larger argument. It really is hard to find categories that either stick or mean anything anymore. If the proof is not in the pudding here, it’s because… well, no matter what your views are of metaphor, poetry isn’t like pudding! In the October issue of Poetry, the Canadian poet Jason Guriel asks why the great American poem is so hard to write. He picks up where Camille Paglia left off in her own recent anthology Break, Blow, Burn, when she said that “we have come to respect [poets] for their intelligence, commitment, and the body of their work. They ceased focusing long ago on production of the powerful, distinctive, self-contained poem.” He looks at a clutch of recent books and has trouble finding distinct, let alone distinctive, poems in them. That poets favor process over result, he says, helps explain why.
Maybe it illustrates something Ron Silliman says: that there is “no such thing as poetry, only kinds of poetry.” Now, that’s a pretty striking thing to say, and Silliman adds: “This discussion – where is poetry going? – needs to occur right now, and we need it to be passionate and detailed and committed.” Yet it seems to me that the discussion has been going on at least since Pound’s 1919 version of Fenollosa’s essay “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium of Poetry” which, as Robert Von Hallberg recently put it (in Lyric Powers) “changed American poetics by undermining the authority of prose syntax.” Poetry was brand-new at the time, and it’s amazing that, far from making things new, here we all are still debating this. As Von Hallberg says, “The shock of Fenollosa’s or Pound’s ideogrammic method is gone… Poets and their readers commonly understand that intelligiblity is not limited to what can be concisely stipulated. Some poets urge their art into the gap between what conventional discourse comprehends and what readers of poetry may apprehend. As they do so, intelligibility is inevitably spoken of in the subjective mood. One asks, poem by poem, how unintelligibility brings gain, and of what kind.” Such is Guriel’s challenge as a reviewer, an editor’s challenge selecting poems for publication in a magazine, and, of course, the reader’s challenge. For as Swensen acknowledges, our post-Poundian (post-Modern?) hybridity does not guarantee excellence, and in making consensus and critical criteria unstable, more responsibility is put upon individual readers: they have to “become aware of and refine their own criteria.”
As it happens, Harriet always acknowledged that, as Whitman put it, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences.” Maybe it’s hard, now, to believe in such things as great poets or great poems- but great audiences are still around. And so… over to you.

Comments (65)

  • On October 8, 2008 at 11:38 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Don, there is a wonderful typo in your very interesting post, and here’s hoping you won’t correct it, as it seems to get at something that may be important in this whole “hybrid,” “third way,” elliptical” thing:
    >Poets written today are “hybrids”…
    That is (your typo suggests), that the real *agency* of hybridity, its more real motor force, may not be so much “aesthetic” as sociological. The Prius, for example, looks cool and gets good gas mileage, but it’s still no less a part of the traffic flow and its rules.
    Drivers, ultimately (no matter the statement their vehicle makes), are in a deeper sense driven, too, no?
    :~)
    Kent

  • On October 8, 2008 at 11:47 am Don Share wrote:

    Ha! Thank you, Kent, but of course I fixed the typo!! Darn little boxes. Crummy spectacles.
    Obviously, the point you’re making was in my subconscious: highway, byway, hybrid-way, third way. No way? WAY.
    D.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 11:49 am Jane wrote:

    Ron Silliman says: that there is “no such thing as poetry, only kinds of poetry.”
    - I agree, thought yesterday on teh bus: I know a poem, when I read it.
    It’s like recognzing a turtle, amongst like-colored rocks.
    ps-
    I wonder what the illness wrought by reading the entire OED is called…

  • On October 8, 2008 at 12:14 pm Aaron Fagan wrote:

    You credit Silliman, but I think Adrienne Rich did a much better job of describing the situation in her controversial introduction to, and editorial selections for, the 1996 Best American Poetry.
    I work for Scientific American and I am amazed by how science writers use quotes from poets to be used for there own ends, but clearly don’t know what they are talking about when they do. It makes them look dumb by not respecting that the humanities are just as rigorous as science. But, of course, the humanities don’t help much when they appropriate a scientific idiom for their own ends. All that Two Cultures stuff that C.P. Snow was crying about. Does that have anything to do with this third way?
    I like what Jung said:
    “What we are to our inward vision, and what a man appears to be sub
    specie aeternitatis [from the perspective of eternity], can only be
    expressed by way of myth. Myth is more individual and expresses life
    more precisely than does science. Science works with concepts of
    averages which are far too general to do justice to the subjective
    variety of an individual life.”
    And Nikola Tesla:
    “The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
    The same could be said for poets and poetries. And economists.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 12:21 pm Doodle wrote:

    Now that you mention him, I’m wondering whether we should say that Jung was a scientist or a humanist.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 12:43 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    (I miss you, Reginald.)
    Don, thanks for this wonderful post. I’ve been experimenting lately with sonnet-ghazal hybrids, and prose-poem-essay hybrids, always, always, with a dash of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. Cross-fertilization is the heart of poetic invention. I find it very exciting. Of course, it helps to first thoroughly understand the different forms you’re cross-fertilizing.
    I enjoyed the Guriel essay.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 1:44 pm john wrote:

    I like the Hannah poem that Guriel highlights, and one of the things I like is the tidy couplet with which it closes, sonnet-like.
    Guriel’s imprecation against italics and selected punctuation marks don’t reach me — I don’t know why poets should abjure resources of the printed page. He muddles his point, starting out by criticizing the process-poem, and swerving to criticize poetry-to-be-read-aloud, while pretending that the criticisms are related.
    Perhaps I’m sensitive to his muddledness because I’m sympathetic to his first criticism and unsympathetic to his second.
    By way of example, David Antin’s “the structuralist” is a great American poem, by any measure — narrativity, closure, range of thought, depth of feeling, acuity of insight, imagery, humor, pathos, and non-prosy materiality of language — and it’s oral all the way.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 1:48 pm Lemon Hound wrote:

    Interesting post, and an anthology I look forward to. Claudia Rankine and Juliana Spahr edited an anthology that wore down some of these barriers in 2001. Where Lyric Meets Language includes Jorie Graham, Lucie Brock Broido, Rae Armantrout, Ly Hejinian, Susan Howe, Mei-Mei Berseenbrugge and others. I know it’s a smaller, more specific conversation, but what I’m saying is, there are forces that have been working to move beyond this binary. As well when I edited Open Field, my anthology of contemporary Canadian poetry (Persea 2005), I chose to represent the most dynamic poetry of the day, not any one school or region, or even level of career. The result was again, poets side by side that readers and/or critics might not expect to be in conversation. Of course my contention is that they actually are in conversation. I hope Swenson is right, and that the old opposition is breaking down, and that the conversation can shift to poetry itself, and not the grouping and defending of positions around it. No such thing as poetry–it’s poetries.

  • On October 8, 2008 at 3:01 pm Ange Mlinko wrote:

    Don, I wonder if it occurred to you how interesting a triangulation there is between the Guriel piece (poems, not poetry, please); last month’s “Little Low Heavens” (lasting poems are fixed in the mind by their felicities, not perfect structures); and Logan’s piece on Crane (Crane has felicities, but few structurally good poems). The undecidability is what makes this art, not baseball, right? And yet because more people like baseball than art means that we periodically get all angsty about this.
    Thanks for posting this and moving the conversation along…

  • On October 8, 2008 at 3:24 pm Don Share wrote:

    Thanks, guys, for these great comments. I didn’t know that Guriel was going to quote that particular poem of Hannah’s in his piece, but it’s poignant for me because I’d published it in Harvard Review, and its appearance in the magazine was among the last things she attended to. She and I had gone back and forth for months about its last lines, so diligent a craftsman was she. I’m struck by how people have responded to that particular poem, having seen it so long from a nuts-and-blots point of view…
    I’m a big David Antin fan (of the earlier talk volumes, at least), and for a long time took to going around talking to myself as if I were he, but no poems ever came of it! Wordsworth composed by talking to himself, too, didn’t he?
    I’m with you, Lemon Hound, in hoping for something more than the defending of certain claims and stances… yet I do feel slightly pessimistic. Still…
    Ange, you know we really did see these pieces dancing around each other; at the same time, so much falls through the cracks separating them that there’s an awful lot that remains to be said. The baseball analogy helps me get why there’s Angst, though, especially given the recent fate of both the Cubs and White Sox. I take heart, miles and miles and miles of heart, from what you say!

  • On October 8, 2008 at 3:47 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    I like David Antin, too. (And talk about heads that evoke turtle shells amidst like-colored rocks, etc!). But shortly after 9/11 he said something really strange, and I wrote this epigram, which is in my Epigramititis: 118 Living American Poets:
    David Antin
    Recently he has spoken in writing
    on the listserv Poetics: “If you encounter
    a terrorist on a plane, you don’t politely
    request that he return to his seat, you
    pull out a .45 and you shoot him.”
    History is unstoppable in its teleological
    drive to unity: Pop culture merges
    with the Humanities; the Talk Show merges
    with Talk Poetry. And huge decompressed
    machines fall, like ideologemes, out of the air.
    Kent

  • On October 8, 2008 at 9:53 pm Boyd Nielson wrote:

    Hi Don,
    I respect Cole Swensen (a remarkable poet) a great deal, and I look forward to the intriguing anthology. (Let me preface what I’m about to say by noting that I will reserve judgment on the anthology itself until I’ve actually read it.) But in view of what you have (so far) quoted, I think it is misguided and, ironically, a perpetuation of the assumptions behind the old oppositions rather than a disruption of or challenge to them. Here is the problem: the oppositions of the Allen anthology (which inform, of course, Silliman’s adamantine distinction between avant and SoQ) could be contested or replaced by hybridity only if they were ever determining in the first place. They were not. That is to say, the notion of hybridity (or, having one’s origin from a complex or heterogeneous set of influences) is so generally true that as a theoretical principle it becomes entirely trivial. Let me offer a quick example from my own decrepit hobbyhorse, early American studies. Barbara Lewalski has a phenomenal book that places Edward Taylor within a tradition that includes Herbert and other Protestant lyricists. Which is useful. But what sense does it make to place Taylor there while forever excluding, say, influences from Increase or Cotton Mather or Solomon Stoddard, or, moreover, Bradstreet or Wigglesworth? How can we really talk about Taylor’s obsession with gold in his Preparatory Meditations poems without considering the paper currency debate in Massachusetts? And so on. The problem is not that it is mistaken to say that poets of today are products of contradictory traditions; the problem is that it is mistaken to say that poets could ever be anything else.
    More troublingly, Cole Swensen’s conflation and celebration of “complex aesthetic and ideological differences” as a replacement for “binary opposition” is entirely irreconcilable with Kent’s (crucially) important point that what needs to be considered is not so much the “aesthetic” as sociological drive. Or, to put it another way, what if we introduced into discussions of poetic hybridity not questions of community but rather, for instance, of class? Surely in that case two things become apparent: certain kinds of complex differences (inequalities!) are things not to be celebrated but instead eradicated, and eradication becomes possible only by insisting on oppositions of ideology. In that case, too, disagreements between avant and SoQ schools become entirely irrelevant. But, clearly, disagreements between other kinds of collectives do not.
    Maybe one more thing (though this might sound a little bit gratuitous and ill-humored): in view of what Camille Paglia has herself actually written, I’m not sure why anyone anywhere would want to pick up where she left off. OK, that was uncalled for. Maybe

  • On October 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    Don,
    Thanks, indeed, for this beautiful post, for “moving the conversation forward”! I have some questions regarding Swensen’s argument, though of course I won’t get to read it for a while.
    As you point out very clearly, this conversation has been going on for a very long time, that’s a key point of your post. Yes! Did “hybridity”, in fact, precede the “schools”? I have a feeling that’s what you’re implying. Were the schools always something of an illusion, a construct (on an aesthetic level, that is, apart from the question of which cliques were in control of key institutions or not, etc.)? In fact, hasn’t this school business been much more about how to lobby in groups and bring your cohort into power or into view than any really significant or absolute aesthetic binaries? How many times could one, for instance, show that a certain “member” of one school has, in crucial ways, much more in common with a given “member” of another school than with other “members” of her/his own school? Does it really make sense to categorise, for instance, Lowell as an aesthetic conservative based on his actual work? Where do these rivalries really come from? What, finally, is the actual content of “quietitude” if not a political category, a means of inclusion and exclusion (drafted to counter exclusion perhaps, but still)?
    And further: the big problem with hybridity for me is that, curiously, it reifies the terms it tries to bring together! Same problem with “fusion”. For instance, I have always had a problem with the idea of cultural hybridity in some of its formulations in post-colonial studies because it has to start (and end as well, unfortunately) with distinct and mutually exclusive “cultures” in order to bring them together–whereas that very cultural difference is being produced.
    And further: what makes me especially suspicious is how this whole discussion starts to completely break down once one moves beyond national scenes, such as “American poetry”. This is something that Reginald acknowledged in a discussion on Harriet, but I didn’t press him further then. It shows that there is a *larger* frame of exclusion and inclusion that helps to hold these binaries in place, and maybe even makes a show of reconciling them from time to time. Once you move out into the field of global English and then global poetry, you’re forced to leave binaries behind for pluralities plotted on several different dimensions, it’s hard to dictate which side is which, there’s often no simple framework of funding/politics to act as a pointer. And just what do you do with always protean figures like Edwin Morgan (b.1920)?
    So my question really is, what do we do, now that we’re not in Kansas anymore?

  • On October 8, 2008 at 10:31 pm Ange Mlinko wrote:

    Boyd Nielson:
    Please clarify. Is hybridity the privilege of a class of people whose own parents were university professors? Heads of departments? The most I.Q.-tastic among us? I really want to know. Because I don’t want to believe in hybridity; however, the evidence before me suggests that hybridity has been secured by Iowa grads with impeccable pedigrees.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 8:15 am Ange Mlinko wrote:

    Sorry for the note of annoyance that crept in there. But I’m afraid this is bringing out the cynic in me. After conceptual poetry, after uncreative writing, after hybridity, what I think would be really radical is a poetic genius.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 9:11 am Boyd Nielson wrote:

    Hi Ange,
    >>Please clarify. Is hybridity the privilege of a class of people whose own parents were university professors? Heads of departments? The most I.Q.-tastic among us? I really want to know. Because I don’t want to believe in hybridity; however, the evidence before me suggests that hybridity has been secured by Iowa grads with impeccable pedigrees.
    Let me say, first, (and please don’t get me wrong: I mean this quite respectfully), huh?
    Maybe we are missing each other? My point is that hybridity, as a theoretical principle, is not and cannot be a privilege; neither is it a program or an achievement. (That is what I meant when I said that the notion of hybridity is so generally true that it becomes entirely trivial.) Which means, also, (and here I think we may agree) that if it is indeed claimed as an achievement (over, say, the divisive past battles of poetry schools) then it becomes precisely a status badge “secured,” as you put it, “by Iowa grads,” that is, no less a program for positioning oneself atop the poetry heap than post-avant tirades against the supposedly hegemonic SoQ.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 9:20 am Don Share wrote:

    I lean very much toward what Vivek and Ange are getting at here, and assent to Boyd’s point about Edward Taylor. The larger point is that for all the talk about making things new, we keep waiting for it: a messianic compulsion, perhaps. It hasn’t, at any rate, visited us, or been visited upon us, for at least two generations. We seem to be whistling past the graveyard while we wait…
    And yet I allow for the possibility, if not certainty, that what’s really new is not now publicly discernable (a la Dickinson and other past-perfect outliers).
    Meanwhile… I don’t know why Ron’s headline says I’ve “come out for” hybrid poetry when the point is that I’m skeptical! Though Swensen’s argument is generous, capacious, ingenious, and hopeful, I think that we could use some actual opposition, binary or otherwise, and not the posturing we see everywhere, everyday. We all resemble one another far too much – this is what Swensen accurately describes – despite all the theorizing, class-ification, reification, posturing and yes, publication. It’s not healthy, and not much will come of it.
    Worst-case scenario: we’re, like most of the 19th-century American poets, little more than fodder for future academics and other sorts of bemused archaeologists. Assuming that there’s a future for us even to that extent, that is.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 10:14 am Matt wrote:

    “The larger point is that for all the talk about making things new, we keep waiting for it: a messianic compulsion, perhaps. It hasn’t, at any rate, visited us, or been visited upon us, for at least two generations.”
    Two generations??? Nothing new in the past 40-50 years? Really? Uh…

  • On October 9, 2008 at 10:22 am Don Share wrote:

    I’d say so, yes. In fact, I did! Feel free to list the “new.”
    Wait, I’ll start: flarf, conceptual poetry, language poetry, neo-Formalism… though my point is that each of these is rooted in thinking that is two – or more! – generations old, and not just in American poetry, either.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 10:54 am Matt wrote:

    Why is it not new just because it’s rooted in something older? Everything’s rooted in something.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 11:08 am Don Share wrote:

    Everything rooted in the past can be made new, and should be. What it should not be is repeated. Ad infinitum. Endlessly-riffed-upon. Which isn’t new.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 11:10 am Aaron Fagan wrote:

    This hybrid ditty is not much different than a played out Freudian unfolding of Bloom’s Anxiety of Influence which helps make sense of all of these schools of resentment. Language among other things is a learned behavior and totally unoriginal. That’s Skinner. We ourselves are totally unoriginal. And even if we were original, Celan:
    Whichever word you speak—
    you owe to
    destruction.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 11:36 am Lemon Hound wrote:

    Please, no more poetic geniuses!
    As we know that’s a fairly subjective term. One that most often gets used in terms of keeping others out of poetry and poetic conversations.
    But yes to poetries, that’s for sure. Yes to poems.
    Perhaps the “new” is simply good poetry. It’s all around you. Much of it doesn’t fit into any one theory, or school, but in my view, is mindful of its time, and the discussions. Of it, not ruled by it. And it zings, excites, and provokes, despite the great silence about the actual poems and the cacophony of discussion of poetic positions and careers being made of them.
    Not that these discussions aren’t useful. Thanks for the interesting thoughts. Looking forward to the new anthology. Now, I’m off to read a poem.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 12:13 pm Ange Mlinko wrote:

    Got it, Boyd. I agree.
    Lemon Hound — If I ever did an anthology I would just call it “Genius” and it would be, just as you say, fairly subjective!

  • On October 9, 2008 at 12:50 pm Daisy Fried wrote:

    I sometimes wonder if all the attention to the notion of a “hybrid” poetry–whatever the discussion’s theoretical trappings–is just a way of people justifying liking poems they think they’re not supposed to like.
    It also seems to me that any poetry that’s really in dialogue with other poems and poetries, past and present, is going to be hybrid, and that surely poets have always picked and chosen amongst available tools and traditions to hybridize–whether consciously or unconsciously–their own work.
    Daisy

  • On October 9, 2008 at 2:05 pm bill knott wrote:

    . . . announcing the new improved poetry, fresh with all the fervor of today, HYBRID!
    with miracle ingredient THEORETICAL JUSTIFICATION——
    isn’t it funny how poets like Mary Oliver and Billy Collins and Sharon Olds et al
    don’t need to have their verse marketed and packaged with this
    kind of monger——
    they write poetry that people actually want to read
    and will actually buy,
    even without labels like this . . .

  • On October 9, 2008 at 2:28 pm Mary Meriam wrote:

    Anyone would feel jaded reading the quantity of poems you read, Don. It must drain your creative juices. But if you can’t find anything exciting to read, you’ll just have to write it yourself. Nu?

  • On October 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm Don Share wrote:

    Oh, Mary – I never feel jaded! I read and read in eternal hope of finding something new, and it’s often fulfilled. I wouldn’t do what I do if I ever got jaded about this. By new, above, I mean something larger than (turning around Guriel’s point, at last!) any particular poem, but something NEW!

  • On October 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm Doodle wrote:

    “One gazelle flicks its tail —and the tail flick goes from gazelle to gazelle right through the herd, while they keep their heads down, nonchalantly feeding. To the individual gazelle it must feel like a communal brief prayer, meaning: while we all exist as one gazelle, I exist as full strength gazelle, immortal gazelle.” – Ted Hughes

  • On October 9, 2008 at 4:23 pm bill knott wrote:

    ——instead of repackaging and remarketing
    their unpopular reader-hostile verse
    with fatuous slogans like hybrid and neo-this and post-that
    (add “american” to augment library-sales),
    why don’t these elitist Swensonites write
    or try to write poems that people want to read,
    the way Oliver/Collins/Olds et al
    do——

  • On October 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm bill knott wrote:

    —— it’s like a “special-edition” DVD
    of a movie that bombed at the box office——
    no amount of hype and hot air
    is going to get the poetry audience to buy
    something they’ve already
    not bought,
    no matter how browbeatingly you nortonize it——

  • On October 9, 2008 at 4:55 pm Aaron Fagan wrote:

    Per Doodle’s doodle:
    “Gazelles are almost the only animals that look good to eat when they are still alive, in fact, one can hardly look at their hindquarters without thinking of mint sauce.”
    From George Orwell’s “Marrakech”

  • On October 9, 2008 at 5:01 pm Lemon Hound wrote:

    Don, where are you looking for new? There’s all kinds of new and exciting.
    Maybe it’s the wrong kind of new?

  • On October 9, 2008 at 5:28 pm LBehrendt wrote:

    The motive behind calling attention to the binary in American poetry was so that one like-minded group would not control, fund, decide what would be taught and published, & promulgate one limited ideology, aesthetic, or kind of poetry. What is the motive behind a new “hybrid” view of American poetry? My sense is that it is someone attempting to get to the top of the hill & plant a flag. Sorry, but I don’t trust it. Things have not evened out yet enough to trust it.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 7:22 pm Ange Mlinko wrote:

    The Hughes poem reminds me: when I was a teenager I was given a copy of the anthology he edited with Heaney, The Rattle Bag. Not very cool, not very hip, but solid and sturdy. I was so fond of it. It still seems to me that an anthology organized around poems as music (rather than poems as, firstly, intellectual property) is the way to go.

  • On October 9, 2008 at 11:37 pm Don Share wrote:

    Lemon H., where to begin? I see the poems that are submitted to us here at Poetry. I am a committed book buyer, and buy A LOT of books, ‘cos I’m a bookworm and have few other bad habits. Augmenting this, we get sent a great many new books for review here, as you might imagine, and we subscribe to lots of mags in the office. I’m online day and night, as some folks can testify, so I’m on the prowl for poetry on the good ol’ internets. I used to acquire all the poetry stuff for a major university collection of contemporary poetry, and hosted a reading series – so I got a good education that way… If I keep going on, it’s just going to sound pompous, and I don’t want it to. What I’m saying is that I spend most of my waking hrs. searching for poetry both old and new in various senses. Including your own fine blog. My eyes are peeled! But it’s not, as one says, about me. So all this aside, suggest anything new right here, folks, and tell me where YOU guys look for it!

  • On October 10, 2008 at 12:47 am Matt wrote:

    Jen Currin, Tina Brown Celona, Tao Lin, Noelle Kocot, Geraldine Kim, Graham Foust, Amanda Nadelberg, I’m just listing these off the top of my head, Leigh Stein, Sommer Browning, Julia Cohen, Jeni Olin, Matt Hart, Stephanie Young, Sharon Mesmer, Gabriel Gudding, Anne Boyer, Ish Klein…just a few youngish people I’ve recently discovered and liked very much…I find them at good bookstores and on the internet. I think they are doing new things and even if they’re less new than you might like well I don’t really care. If I sat here another five minutes I could list fifty more.

  • On October 10, 2008 at 9:21 am Doodle wrote:

    No usual suspects, please.

  • On October 10, 2008 at 10:50 am Don Share wrote:

    One place Fred Sasaki & I keep an eye on for “new” [in some folks' sense of the word, not mine, exactly] is Shiny. Any other Shiny readers here?

  • On October 10, 2008 at 11:51 am Aaron Fagan wrote:

    Barney Rosset et al at Evergreen Review still publish sufficiently weird and entertaining work.
    Elk was rad while it lasted.
    Canteen is okay.
    What happened to The Canary? That was a great bright shining light.
    /nor is standard-issue cool.
    1913 is beautiful but lame. Like so many people and publications.

  • On October 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm Doodle wrote:

    Evergreen Review may be evergreen, but it’s not new. Right now they’re featuring… Beckett! And Barney Ross is (all due respect) … how old???

  • On October 10, 2008 at 12:34 pm Don Share wrote:

    Some of us have missed Reginald on this thread. Well, here’s his two cents on the subject:
    “The possibility that different poets and different kinds of poetry may be doing different but equally worthwhile sorts of things (one that is taken for granted in the world of contemporary visual art) is also rarely consdiered, or is dismissed as mere liberal pluralism and co-optation. The opposition of mainstream and avant-garde poetry has become almost as ritualized as the opposition of poetry and criticism, in which poets demonize criticism as the death of literature and the imagination and critics condescend to poets at best and utterly ignore them at worst. This is part of what the brilliant poet and critic Susan Stewart has called the ‘general climate of anti-intellectualism and refusal of speculation by many American poets” (and that very much includes many experimentalist poets, who too often neglect the intellectual underpinnings of their practice.).”

  • On October 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm Aaron Fagan wrote:

    I now see The Canary is The Canarium.
    Forgot to mention Ugly Duckling’s journal 6X6.

  • On October 10, 2008 at 2:27 pm Don Share wrote:

    Yep, we subscribe in the office to 6X6 (produced in an edition of only 1,000!).

  • On October 10, 2008 at 4:47 pm MM wrote:

    Don . . . I’d maybe suggest Damn the Caesars as well . . . I have their 4th issue in front of me right now and it seems to be on the up and up. . . . skewing slightly “newer” (maybe) than Shiny, which is pretty terrific as well . . . but seems to have a 2nd/3rd/4th gen. NY retrospective style (some might say “heritage”) that it can’t seem to shake off for any extended stretch (not to say that’s a bad thing–it’s not, and is usually something to look for . . .) . . . which, in any event, at this very moment, notches them just below DtC in my book . . . if you’re looking for the “new” . . .

  • On October 10, 2008 at 4:57 pm Don Share wrote:

    Yes, I read Damn the Caesars, as well – who published, among much other worthiness, a talk by Tom Pickard.

  • On October 10, 2008 at 6:25 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    >Because I don’t want to believe in hybridity; however, the evidence before me suggests that hybridity has been secured by Iowa grads with impeccable pedigrees.
    Hm. These “impeccable pedigrees”… Do they really only get woven in Iowa?
    Kent

  • On October 10, 2008 at 11:59 pm Lemon Hound wrote:

    Shall we give away our secret new sources??
    Hm.
    I can tell you where you won’t find new quicker than where you will.

  • On October 11, 2008 at 6:28 am Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    Does it have to be new? Like the iphone or something? Does there have to be a new new each week? Maybe what we should do then is build obsolescence and flimsiness right into the structures of our poems, a sell-by or expiry date, the way we do with our electronic products, a good way to keep prices from crashing too.
    Or maybe we should make it old. Maybe old is going to be the new new.
    At any rate, I find myself saying: “Disjunction is just a technique–not a value or a sure sign of progress!’

  • On October 11, 2008 at 8:25 am Don Share wrote:

    Thank you for making my point better than I did, Vivek. One can find “new” all over the place, if that seems better than something “old.” But if folks merely assumed I wasn’t “keeping up,” I’m happy to show otherwise, though that doesn’t prove much, does it? New, schmoo, I’m saying. Maybe the most meaningful hybrid is that of “new” and “old.” But you can see how ridiculous it is to talk about poetry like this, eh?
    Speaking of the “new” and iPhones:
    Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate… As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.
    - Thoreau

  • On October 11, 2008 at 11:05 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    So you think *you’re* special, hybrid poets?
    :~)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAyhz2m-UuQ

  • On October 11, 2008 at 7:55 pm john wrote:

    Don, this one’s for you!
    “What is new is what is good. And — Mr. Pound’s *Make It New* will not be evaded — what is good is what is new. There is no point otherwise in writing the poem. A poet does not write the poem he knows can be written; he writes what he will know only when he has written it. All he can see at first is what looks like the impossibility of any expression; it will be a poem or it will be nothing; it will cause language to exist where there was no language before. The good poem is always a surprise. If it could have been predicted, it would not be a good poem.” — Henry Rago, Forward, *Poetry*, The Fiftieth Anniversary

  • On October 12, 2008 at 8:37 am Don Share wrote:

    Hey, thanks, John. To which I say, yay! But I can’t figure out whether that cool Rago statement should now be considered old or… still-new! (As I recall, even Silliman had nice things to say about Rago…)

  • On October 12, 2008 at 4:46 pm Daniel Nester wrote:

    I want to kiss Bill Knott,

  • On October 12, 2008 at 7:28 pm Don Share wrote:

    Mary Karr’s kiss to Bill can be found by clicking here!

  • On October 12, 2008 at 8:15 pm Don Share wrote:

    About which, I now see, Bill has this to say.

  • On October 12, 2008 at 8:16 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    It seems to me that Don Share (& Robert Von Hallberg) overstate, rhetorically & polemically, Pound’s disruption of prose values – since Pound was an enthusiast for BOTH ends of the spectrum. That is, for imagistic, ideogrammatic short-cuts, as well as for the prose realism of a number of early 20th-century novelists (from James to Joyce). And this enthusiasm for prose had a subterranean influence, by way of WCW and others, on the 60s prose/free-verse wave beginning with Lowell’s “Life Studies”.
    Though perhaps Don is right to suggest that the binaries of US poetics began with Pound’s imagism. An anthology of “hybrid” poetics clearly attempts to ratify the existence of such a binary (since constructed on a melding or resolution of same).
    Van Hallberg writes : “The shock of Fenollosa’s or Pound’s ideogrammic method is gone… Poets and their readers commonly understand that intelligiblity is not limited to what can be concisely stipulated. Some poets urge their art into the gap between what conventional discourse comprehends and what readers of poetry may apprehend. As they do so, intelligibility is inevitably spoken of in the subjective mood. One asks, poem by poem, how unintelligibility brings gain, and of what kind.”
    - this reminds me of Leopardi’s criticism of a lot of (English) Renaissance & Baroque (Metaphysical) poetry – that the focus is on surface glitter and rhetorical tricks & flash. A coterie poetry – verbal pyrotechnics, rather than plot (story) or feeling. Which relates to Bill Knott’s pathetic complaint or caterwaul. The assumption here (in Von Hallberg) is that “conventional discourse” is some kind of firm but drab template against which the rhetorical tweaks and twitches of poetic “experiment’ lead to new visions… sad to say Rimbaud laughed this off over a century ago (before the Moderns even got started). There is no rhetorical or artsy solution to the blindness & tragedy of the human predicament.

  • On October 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm Don Share wrote:

    Hey, Henry, thanks for this comment. I don’t think I have much to quarrel with in what you say. I’ve been wanting to add, generally, a paraphrase of Pound, though: when it comes to the passage of time in poetry, “distance avails not.” (He actually said this of translation.)

  • On October 12, 2008 at 11:23 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Actually I think the so-called division goes back further, to Whitman & Longfellow (Song of Hiawaths and Song of Myself, both published in 1855).
    Poe & Dickinson as counter-tenors. Melville (Clarel) as b-flat double-bass.
    We don’t know or understand our own history… & yet we gab, & worry, & compare…

  • On October 13, 2008 at 12:39 pm john wrote:

    Don,
    Good question! Does newness wear out?
    “What is good is what is news that stays news” . . .

  • On October 23, 2008 at 7:49 pm James Stotts wrote:

    as a big fan of the four-line sonnet and the hay-na-ku, it seems disingenuous to buy into the ‘opposition of mainstream and avant-garde poetry’–those kinds of discussions tend to be more about politics than poetics. schools or divisions usually end up forming around one or a few individuals with a particular vision, and brought to conclusion by a few more who follow through and then overcome it–that is, they are historical more than anything else. and what’s truly divisive, or can’t be understood somewhere by someone, doesn’t survive. remember: poets survive because somebody loves them, is inspired by them. that’s not proof of quality, it’s just the mode.
    ‘hybrid’
    chimera says
    you have your mother’s eyes
    you have the eyes of a nation
    and that is why we can all tell
    you’re not from around here
    don’t blend in

  • On October 30, 2008 at 3:39 pm Rex Cox wrote:

    Looking through a glass onion- oh, yeah…the Beatles.

  • On October 30, 2008 at 7:55 pm Don Share wrote:

    I hope it’s ok to reveal that the Walrus was Paul.

  • On February 23, 2009 at 10:27 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    Delayed, I find this thread. I think of hybrids as living bodies, and because of this, I do not understand hybridity as a genre use. Genre use that doesn’t engage the fact of the body…and what if that body is marked by race, or physically, in other ways — by crossings, by wars — in ways that body can’t readily conceal?

  • On June 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm 4 Modes of Poetry (Part 5) « A Poetic Matter wrote:

    [...] entire collection, so it’s important to also understand the idea of hybrid poetry. Don Share wrote about it on the Harriet Blog last October. The gist of the hybrid movement is perfect for the greater modern [...]


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 by Don Share.