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De’Ath & Moore & Sincerity & Failure & Levin & Boyer & Occupy, Oh My

By Harriet Staff

While gesturing recently to a piece on the work and determined “artlessness” of poet Amy De’Ath, we casually wondered if there might be a connection in there somewhere to a poetics of “failure” and “sincerity” (pardon our quotes) as explored by Jennifer Moore in a recent Jacket2 essay. Bebrowed’s blog, quickly becoming a fave read, has responded to our question! Turns out, in this case, perhaps not quite:

This was going to be a considered and point by point riposte of Moore’s argument but I’ve decided that I don’t actually understand it as in I don’t follow the logic of what she’s saying. I’ve now decided to point out that there isn’t any connection between the artlessness that I referred to and whatever Moore might mean.

Well, that’s clear enough. But after a bit of frustration regarding Jacket2, Bebrowed swiftly grapples with this interest in failure, making it evident that modes like “New Sincerity” (and Langpo before it) refer mostly to poetry in the U.S.:

I do need to confess to an interest in failure and especially the stuttering faction within that broad front / trend / school / aesthetic. It can be argued that all poems expect to fail and that they carry this expectation with them as they make their way. It can also be argued that this has always been the case and is unlikely to change in the future. The variable comes in when this essential aspect is given emphasis b[y] practitioners and critics. The last time that this occurred was in the late fifties in the writing and thinking of Becket[t], Blanchot and Celan all of whom have been massively influential ever since.

This historically recurring aesthetic is irrefutable and informs some of the finest work of the last twenty years (late Prynne, [Geoffrey] Hill’s ‘The Triumph of Love’, [Keston] Sutherland’s ‘Stress Position’ etc) and has nothing to do with what Moore seems to be writing about which sounds like a kind of disenchantment with all things New York.

Moore also mentions something called the New Sincerity which is very easy for cynics like me to write off as yet another argument against the teaching of (sigh) creative writing. However, I realise that I’ve spent most of the last two years arguing strongly for a poetics that is based on honesty which I now realise isn’t a million miles from the s word….

I’ve given some further thought as to what the artlessness in De’Ath’s work might be about. The ever-prescient Jonty Tiplady has described her work as ‘fading in and out of technique’ which captures most of what’s going on but there’s also an elegant / considered kind of shrug in the direction of the artful which is really quite special. I suppose that the UK’s equivalent of the Language school might be all things Cambridge or the more hardcore aspects of the late modernist vein – an analogy about place in the cultural landscape rather than manner of expression. I don’t detect any kind of grappling with the exhaustion of these two trends in this material althought this might be evident amongst other younger poets.

Interestingly, the post then contrasts the Moore essay with Lauren Levin’s “remarkable review” of Anne Boyer and Stephanie Young in Lana Turner (which we also mentioned), whilst looking at the politics/poetics of the Occupy movement and the UK protests. Bebrowed writes that Boyer’s My Common Heart is “much more direct than the stuff that I normally read but it is accomplished / technically efficient, contains a fair amount of repetition and says some very perceptive things about the nature of the crowd and crowding and how the practice of poetry might be related / connected to the practice of protest- a connection that many poets overlook in their eagerness to be ‘correct’.”

Much food for thought, as they say.


Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.