Poetry and the Problem of Taste
"When I say, then, that the current audience for poetry in America lacks taste, I do not mean to suggest that we have bad taste--that we like bad poems. I mean, instead, that we have fallen into a kind of insensiblity, a sort of intelligent numbness, which is both a cause and a consequence of the poetry culture's lingering anxiety."
So says Brian Phillips in his essay in the September issue of Poetry, "Poetry and the Problem of Taste."
Here's one more excerpt:
"What happens when the relationship between an audience and an art form begins to fail? A kind of obscurity, something felt but not quite formulated, overwhelms aesthetic judgment. It becomes difficult to say what is good or bad, and worse, what one likes or dislikes. Somehow these questions appear unconnected to what is actually happening. The atmosphere fills with the bad air of theories. Conservative outcries are feebly raised, in response to no evident controversy. Discussion shies from the work of artists, withdraws to the question of survival, the ominous question of the future. What will the way forward be? Irving Howe wrote that all literary revolutions begin in an assault on a standard of taste. Where will the next one begin, if the standard of taste is a vapor?"
Don Share became the editor of Poetry in 2013. His books of poetry are Wishbone (2012), Squandermania (2007), and Union (2013, 2002). He is the co-editor of The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine (2012), and editor of Bunting's Persia (2012) and a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (2016). He...