I was struck that two of the comments to my postings on the compulsive and compulsory categorizing of poets engaged in further such categorization, as if my main point had been missed altogether. Simon DeDeo seemed disappointed that I didn't take sides sufficiently, although my argument was precisely that there is something diminishing of mind and spirit in the incessant side-taking.
In a comment on Jasper Bernes's web log, Simon says (sorry, I couldn't resist) that my post "To Clarify" could have been called "I Like All Good Poetry." I wonder what is wrong with that. In his introduction to The Best American Poetry 1988, John Ashbery wrote that "even the most literate of readers of American poetry tend to confine themselves to a narrow segment of it....the landscape of American poetry is strangely fragmented and gerrymandered; its partisans frequently blinkered.... Instead of congratulating ourselves on so much diversity we tend, as so often in America, to choose up sides and ignore anyone not our team.... I like things that seem to me good of their kind, and don't especially care what the kind is."
I am hardly as catholic in my tastes as Ashbery--there are many kinds of poetry that leave me cold--but I do think that it is at least a laudable ideal to first approach work for itself and in its own terms, to see how well it fulfills the tasks it sets itself. If one doesn't understand the terms within which a poem operates and the things it is trying to do, one cannot reach any judgment about either the value of those terms or whether it is trying to do something worth doing. But terms like "School of Quietude," or even "post-avant," especially as they are thrown around in the online poetry world, constitute a rush to judgment that not only obviates the need to read and evaluate actual poems but eliminates the possibility of doing so. I would like to like all good poetry, though I don't think that I do. That such a statement should be considered pejorative is very sad.