Mike Snider defends against the charge that new formalists confuse versifying with poetry. At least some of the examples he provides are more interesting than the prosaic sonnet which triggered that debate. Charles Martin's poem on Modernism neatly encapsulates the polemic situation.

I think formalism in these terms could become the new boilerplate poetry, as free verse was for about 12-15 yrs in the 70s and 80s. There's a facile, glib, bum-te-tum quality about it - why is that?

Well, I ALMOST agree with Ron Silliman that, deep down, we're talking about a divide between the US and English tradition. The problem with Ron's pigeonholes is that both sides of the (US/England or Avant/Quietude) divide are symbiotic, depend upon each other. In my view, this is a good thing: I can see a future for formalist-traditional experimentalism and experimental avant-garde neo-traditional formalism. What I don't really like are the thin poetries on either side of the divide, which don't see or can't hear the other. That there is the really un-historical position, because the experiments of the Americans exist, and have always existed, in dialectical symbiosis with their dance partners over the water.

Modernism (per Charles Martin, it seems, at least) is now part of the dustbin of history. But underlying US modernism is something older. I would call it an inherent, characteristic Americanness, going back to Whitman, and earlier - back to Edward Taylor & Emerson (and to their cultural sources, to a very large extent - the Hebrew prophets & the King James Bible). There is an essential graininess there - gnarled, idiosyncratic, contrary, eccentric - which I associate with Hesiod as opposed to Homer or the Alexandrians. It runs through Whitman & Dickinson & Melville & even Robinson, it adds salt to Frost, it reappears with a vengeance (& dialectically, impurely) in Eliot & Pound; even in Stevens' smooth pentameters there's a very curious designedly-amateur, originary quality, which is hard to pin down (not to mention Niedecker, Zukofsky, and...), but which will never be absorbed or equalled by the Audenesque jingles of neo-formalism (unless formalism itself learns to reckon with the great prophetic Oddballs of American poetry).

There's a stone in my shoe, she said, limping down the road.

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