Below the opening paragraphs of Michael Boughn’s Galatea Resurrects post. You can read the full piece here.
MICHAEL BOUGHN Engages
“The Hero and the Gunslinger: Did Robert Creeley and Ed Dorn lose their way in middle age?” by Aram Saroyan
(The Poetry Foundation, April 28, 2009)
Major and minor bullshit in the new (old) literary discourse
Given all the pressures toward success in the market of today’s neo-liberal cultural grotesqueries, it probably should not come as a surprise to find those old staid measures of literary excellence, major and minor, resurfacing. This, after all, is a time when the president of something called The Poetry Foundation can publicly declare that “the mind is a marketplace” and not be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail by raging poets. On the contrary, they line up in front of him with their hands out. It is a bit surprising, though, to find them popping up and circulating in the writing of poets who claim some historical relation to those poetries which sprang up in the 50’s and 60’s precisely as alternatives to the elegant formal constructions then dominating the academic imagination of what poetry’s limits were.
That was a time of astonishing creativity and bold gestures, whatever its historical limits and determinations—a time of immense potentialities arising out of a combat with the formal perfections and traditional concerns of the ruling academic verse. Chief among the targets in the temples of literary propriety was the notion of “the literary” itself and all the tight ass little distinctions used to buttress its walls against the threats of “inferior” and “minor” poetry. That would include concepts of “literary excellence,” for instance, and the categories that were mobilized to determine it. It would also include those old saws, “major” and “minor.”
Yet here they are once again popping up in the most surprising places. A recent addition to Facebook, for instance, calling itself “Tendencies: Poetics and Practice,” advertises itself as “a series of talks by major poets.” The title itself is interesting in the way it gives pride of place to something called “poetics” and relegates poetry to some vague generalization called “practice.” At least I assume that’s where the poetry is hiding. They never say. “Poetics” it seems, is the new sexy commodity in the intellectual market place of the English Department of the Soul, as Jack Spicer called it. Recently we were treated to news of a gathering called “Rethinking Poetics.” Once again, no mention of poetry, which seems to have gained a reputation as somehow being soft on spirit or something of that order. Soft, anyway. Not theoretical enough where theory (which is what is meant by “poetics”) provides a hard, material measure that can produce a practice—as well as occasions to have many conferences.