Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Friday, February 29, 2008

a definition -- am i a "post-avant?"

According to Reginal Shepard on his blog post on Harriet, the thing that I've been trying to think about for a long time has arrived. Do I trust it? It seems credible, and I'll probably be looking into it more and more.

We are, I think, of the generation of the "post-avants." Here's the definition:

"Post-avant" (as in, "post-avant-garde"—insider groups love shorthand) poets can be described as writers who, at their best, have imbibed the lessons of the modernists and their successors in what might be called the experimental or avant-garde stream of American poets, including the Objectivists (especially Oppen and Zukofsky), what have been called the New American Poetries (from Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan to John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara), particularly the Projectivist/Black Mountain School and the New York School(s), and the Language poets (including such poets and polemicists as Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman), without feeling the need (as so many other poetic formations have) to pledge allegiance to a particular group identity (the poetry world is full of fence-building and turf wars) or a particular mode of proceeding artistically. As poet and editor Rebecca Wolff writes of her journal Fence, a home of the post-avant, such writing “intentionally blurs the distinction between 'difficulty' and 'accessibility,' preferring instead to address a continuum of utterance.” Though many of these poets have projects and even systems, there aren’t a lot of programs. There’s much prose writing and thinking about poetry, and many, many blogs (this is a very wired “generation”), but not many manifestoes.
So, I suppose the question is, are we writing what we want to write, or are we knowingly giving credit to our influences and adjusting ourselves appropriately. I don't mind saying that I have huge influences within the New York School and the Black Arts Movement, but also a big part in the influence of my peers (hey guys!). So what do you think, guys who read this? Are we "intentionally blurring the distinction" between the 'difficulty' and 'accessibility' of our poetry? Or are we just writing what we wann' write?

1 comment:

Olgasmic said...

Just like there is not a modernism, but rather a multiplicity of modernisms, there is not an avant-garde, but a multiplicity of avant-gardes. However, avant-garde is a constant strive to strike down limits, push boundaries further, expand and contract expectations, challenge and overcome generalizations and definitions. The avant-garde is fluid. Post--blah-blah-blah is just another comfort category into which we stuff works to make ourselves feel like there is order. Stick to writing and reading poems, rather than try to assign poets to movements.

Interesting, however, that your bring this up...