I appreciated Tony Hoagland’s insights into the “vertiginous” poetry of the moment in the September 2010 issue [“Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness”]. His characterization of the dichotomy between perspectival poetry, which seeks to provide a coherent human perspective, and the poetry of disorientation seemed spot on. While I do not have a personal affinity for the latter, it is clear that he and others have found enjoyment and value in this poetry.
I take issue with only one part of his essay, namely, the use of a quote from Wallace Stevens as a banner defining the philosophy of the poetry of vertigo. While some of Stevens’s poetry is admittedly opaque, the majority of it, while intellectually challenging, is highly perspectival in the sense that Stevens effectively describes human phenomenological experience and its limitations in a comprehensible way. The “vertiginous” poetry Hoagland quotes is at a great remove from Stevens’s extraordinary work. The “peacocky randomness,” as Hoagland terms it, the pure dissociative technique and violent juxtapositions that are meant to reflect a bald questioning of the solidity of human consciousness, knowledge, and language, differ dramatically from Stevens’s style. Stevens had a well-formed philosophy. At its core, it consisted of an intuitive understanding of human phenomenological consciousness—the imaginative capacity all of us have to endow objective reality with human meaning.
santa cruz, california