Getting back to Jonathan's "decorum", just some square-hole-in-a-round-peg thoughts...

thinking of an intellectual economy of various decorii. Imagining an imaginary literary culture, obsessed with codes, styles, formats, fashions, pecking orders, which nevertheless fails to meet a foundational or primordial fitness test, having forgotten the first principles of the decorum of its particular calling.

Poets set the benchmarks or patterns, by means of which they attune all the little elements of fitness to their sense of fitness as a whole : how a poet fittingly behaves on this straw-strewn threshing-floor.

Who in modern US poetry applied him or herself to Dante's fitness test? In relation to the poet's response to the challenges of the present?

Pound had the grandiose ambition & the social indignation. But observe the contrast between these two paradigmatic exiles.

I have the feeling that contemporary poetry fails a fitness test, in two or three basic directions, at least:

1. failure to acknowledge the difficult technical challenges to good writing in general.

2. failure to recognize the serious themes of great poetry : magnanimity, justice, vision (Dantean terms).

3. assumption that poetry is a means and not an end : a means to social conformity & worldly success.

4. assumption that poetry is a means and not an end : a means toward expressing sour, narrow-minded resentments, rather than exploring paths toward the amelioration of conflict & suffering.

I feel stuck between the sub-cultures of #3 and #4. The former exemplified in the MFA industry, magazine verse, the various cliques of youth-Kult "party poetry", etc.; the latter exemplified, just to use a small current example, in Dale Smith's implying a similarity between contemporary US & Nazi Germany (here). I know this wasn't the main thrust of Dale's point : but it's the typical coin of the realm among the cult of poesie du ressentiment.

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