Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Elizabeth T. Gray Jr.

Dear Editor,

Michael Robbins’s review of Paul Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry [“Ripostes,” July/August 2013] lays out, with concision and humor, my frustrations with the either/or frame articulated, illustrated, and perpetuated by the anthologies under discussion. He also, with great economy, describes the useful and thought-provoking 
ontologically-based “binary” found in Oren Izenberg’s introductory essay in Being Numerous, which contrasts poets whose intention is to produce a series of “objects we call poems” with poets whose intention is “to reveal, exemplify, or make manifest a potential or ‘power’ that minimally distinguishes what a person is.”

Robbins’s essay leads me to suggest another “axis” that might, like Izenberg’s, prove useful in opening up the conversation. There are poets who seem to be neither focused on producing a collection of poem-as-objects, nor on ontological affirmation, whose work might be described as a continuum of attempts in a specific direction: skirmishes in a campaign, expeditions that compose a larger exploration, risks taken in order to sort or see. They are manifestations of the poet’s efforts to test, break, clarify, to find the edge(s) as painters explore, by means of a long series of work in various media — specific color, line, memory, or the concept of the picture plane. While a single work may fall short in the eyes of a New Critic, within the larger arc of intent it may be a turning point or testament of great import.

new york, new york

Originally Published: October 1, 2013

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This prose originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2013

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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