I recently read an article in the Writer's Chronicle (I almost wrote "Writher's Chronicle"), the official organ of that official organ, the AWP, on "Narrative and Poetry," by Natasha Saje (41:1, pp. 62-72). I was kind of interested when I saw the title, since it's seemed to me for some time that the welcome resurgence of lyric in recent years (as a territory safe for "experiment") has tended to elbow out narrative verse, esp. longer, experimental narrative verse ("it's so - well, Olson").
Unfortunately, I don't think this piece helps:
"The dissatisfaction with narrative represented by theorists Louis Althusser, Frederick Jameson, Lennard Davis, Francois Lyotard, Michel de Certeau, Catherine Belsey, and poets including Ron Silliman, Charles Bernstein, and Bob Perelman, stems from two assumptions. First, that narrative creates a unified, stable subject position. In personification [sic], characers are recognizable because they are coherent, predictable, and knowable. Readers create characters from signs [?!], in poems as well as other kinds of literature. Readers try to make sense, and thus to read character into art, for instance by assuming a speaker for a poem. Conversely, real human beings are neither as knowable nor as predictable as literary characters."
The article then presents a 1944 quotation from "Althusser and Horkheimer" (Adorno receives his rightful credit in the works cited).
Anyway, what's interesting here, aside from the example of discontinuous narrative and sloppy paraphrase, is the upshot. First, if you're engaged in absorptive reading and "personification," then it's your fault, not the text's (see, you're "reading into" it). Moreover, even critique of narrative per se can be salvaged for good ol' fashioned middlebrow humanism, because, by golly, the true complexity of the human heart cannot be tied down by any literary representation.
Saje then goes on to do pretty good close readings of poems by Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky, Linda Aldrich, Eleanor Wilner, and [are you ready?] Lucie Brock-Broido. But the point ultimately seems to be that Mainstream poems are complex, too! In other words, control of institutions and capital is not enough - we should accord them intellectual respectability and cultural capital, too.
Or: someone is feeling threatened (maybe me).
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