It’s gratifying to see such thoughtful responses to what was a small attempt—perhaps, I concede to Michael Marcinkowski, an impossible one—at an honest assessment of the situation. Since both Henry Gould and Ange Mlinko mention the idea of the normative, though, I feel I must have failed to convey my sense that there’s no such thing as a trans-historical norm for poetry: stylistic pluralism comes and goes; and the writing of manifestos is neither norm nor deviation, but a response to particular local conditions.
I am sorry to have missed Mlinko’s O’Hara reference, and quite like it, now that I see it. The idea of O’Hara in the fifties marking the beginning of the current era of disillusion with manifestos is fascinating. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the decade beginning with a sincere manifesto like Charles Olson’s “Projective Verse” and ending with the ironic “Personism” represents a tipping point. This is especially interesting to consider given that the fifties were the decade when poets began their great migration into the education and the culture industries. In an institutional sense, I’m sure Mlinko’s right, and we’re still partying like it’s 1959: I’ll have my martini stirred.