Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)

  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
  • PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
  • DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
  • CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
  • BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
  • KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cole Swensen's Utopoetics

The intro to the new anthology American Hybrid has a lot to recommend it. But in the section entitled "The Current Landscape," I must say that I'm not living in the same landscape Swensen is. For instance:

". . . serious students are often exposed to both the conventional and the experimental, but unlike their elders, they don't necessarily feel that they have to choose between them. Instead, they see both presented as viable approaches and sanctioned by the same institutions."

Some people say the world is round, some people say the world is flat, but I think the truth is somewhere in between.

Seriously, folks, this is all well and good if money is no object. But when it is - esp. in the throes of Great Depression II - it's gonna be a fight - for space in journals and books lists, for faculty hires, for teaching assistantships, for awards and fellowships, etc. There's only so much to go around, and scarcity tends to breed polarization. Even if Swensen's statement were true (and I think a lot of younger writers - esp. in CW programs - would beg to differ), when push comes to shove, the literati tend to regroup into camps - very naturally, considering that there is safety (even power) in numbers. And it seems to me that it's a matter of aesthetics, too. There are certainly conventional poets who feel the need to "weird up" their conventional verse. And I'm sure there are less conventional poets who feel the need to explain themselves to the establishment. But throw a golden apple on the floor, and see how fast people take sides.

"The rhizome is an appropriate model, not only for the new Internet publications, but also for the current world of contemporary poetry as a whole. The two-camp model, with its parallel hierarchies, is increasingly giving way to a more laterally-ordered extensive networlk composed of intersections, or hubs, that branch outward toward smaller hubs, which themselves branch outward in an intricate and ever-changing structure of exchange and influence. Some hubs may be extremely experimental, and some extremely conservative, but many of them are true intersections of these extremes . . . " etc. etc.

Aside from the obvious conflation of "world of contemporary poetry" with "American poetry," (not to mention the characterization of Langpo as "academic poetry," earlier in the piece - !), this statement is not altogether accurate, in my view. It is a useful description of Internet publications (and blogs - often one and the same), and that's exciting. But not the Institutions of Poetry (i.e., those with at least some money). For instance, how many of the poems in the actual anthology will have been published in one of those "hubs" at the margins? How many will be by poets you've never heard of? Indeed, how many poems written after 1980 will have been authored by poets working outside the academy? Which brings us back to turf wars.

I appreciate the utopian vision expressed here - provided one keeps in mind that it is "ought," rather than is.