Friday, January 12, 2007

Clear Skies Over the Shire

I was very pleased (and not just for reasons of ego gratification) to see that Ron Silliman has mentioned me in his web log today (and with a picture, no less). This is what he had to say:

"In a webnote that he calls 'Dark Clouds over Mordor,' Greg Rappleye has been wondering 'how long Silliman will go without responding' to Reginald Shepherd’s repeated attempts to, as Greg characterizes it, call me out. But here in the Shire, the skies are blue. I think Shepherd’s doing exactly what he ought to be doing--he’s defining his poetics and defending them. That makes total sense to me. Do I agree with him? Probably not. But I don’t think he needs to write my poems any more than I think I need to write his. Each of us, I trust, will write the poetry we need.

"Shepherd’s roster of the 'experimental' poets he likes--Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Kathleen Fraser, Ann Lauterbach, Michael Palmer, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell, Cole Swensen, and Rosmarie Waldrop--is a pretty good starter list of what I think of as 'third way' or (to use Stephen Burt’s old phrase) 'ellipticist' poets, writers trying to identify a path open as much to such mainstream poets as Jorie Graham or Jean Valentine as to the likes, say, of such post-avants as Erica Hunt or Harryette Mullen. I’d add Forrest Gander & C.D. Wright to Shepherd’s list as well.

"But then I’ve never said that I disliked all School of Quietude (SoQ) poets either. I’ve gone out of my way at times to point to Wendell Berry, Daisy Fried, Bob Hass, John Logan & Jack Gilbert as writers who I think are worth reading under any circumstances. I’ve been known to say positive things about everyone from Elizabeth Bishop to George Starbuck to the soft surrealism of Charles Simic & James Tate. And I agree with anyone who thinks Hart Crane was one of the most interesting (and tragic) poets of the last century – a lot more interesting than the faux experimentalism of e.e. cummings. If they have a significant relationship to the forms they use, it doesn’t really matter where they get them. I think Wendell Berry would be exactly the same poet even if the SoQ never existed. Which is exactly how it should be.

"It’s the SoQ’s historic presumption that American literature is a subset of British (or, since the vaults are pretty much empty over amongst the conservatives on the Island, Irish) literature that irks. Or its occasional annexations of the tradition it dare not name (from Blake to Whitman & Dickinson to the early Pound), which seems to be just the clumsiest sort of turf elbowing imaginable. Or its 160-year history of pretending that other traditions don’t exist in the United States, a pretense that one still finds in certain programs, anthologies and institutions. Shepherd would appear to be one of the poets who has gotten over that, which is great."

Although I don't understand what makes Harryette Mullen more avant-garde than Ann Lauterbach or Cole Swensen, I'm very happy to read that Silliman understands my intentions. To disagree with someone isn't to be his or her enemy, and disagreement isn't the same as attack. It means that you're engaged in reasoned debate, which is one of the things that intellectual life is about, and one of the ways that we grow as thinkers and as people. It would be nice if more people could and would make such distinctions.


John Gallaher said...

From the 'For What It's Worth' file:

Stephen Burt writes:

"Thus neither Rosmarie Waldrop nor Michael Palmer, nor Albert Goldbarth, Frank Bidart, Charles Wright--to name some talented older poets who care for epistemology and disjunction--could count as Elliptical; the first two work too far from an "I" in a real world, the other three too unproblematically close."

Patrick said...

I was more or less hoping for a paintball match. This reasoned discussion stuff lacks that musk of virility television and blogs find difficult to reproduce. I was dreaming of the impossible made real and then I noticed Ron agreed to disagree.

When disagreeing poets should stick to disagreement or else they may begin to pretend they are diplomats of some poetic nation. But let's face it. There are no poetic nations, or for that matter, no poetic continents, states, counties, towns, tribes. No movements, no schools, even. There are only cliques and sociopaths. Neither ever really represent anything except personal agendas with varying degrees of tolerance for loneliness. Queen bees all around. Cliques almost never produce anything of any quality as they're almost always bound by apoetic pretenses, and sociopaths spend way too much time stinging themselves. The true lesson of the fool is that while acting more like the fool thus concluding he is the lesser fool is that really is at least as big a fool if not moreso.

Yes paintball. For if there is nothing in poetry but sociopaths and cliques, then poetry is essentially a redneck enterprise. All poets reside in the sticks.

Let's disagree, then, and maybe maintain an honest level of unreasonableness. Stick to our redneck roots. And maybe more paintball, and more musk.