Here's a long quote from Ron Silliman, posted on his blog on 12.23.05. I post it here because it's a pretty good summary of his approach, which I've been criticizin' for years now:
"I come along at the end of August 2002 and start posting to my weblog, reviewing maybe four books a week at the most, but often enough approaching the issues active in poetry from other perspectives – such as looking at Seth’s self-described “rant” on his weblog. Over the course of a year, it’s conceivable that I might actually discuss – at best – ten percent of a given year’s books of poetry. I’m not at all systematic, but I am informed, at least to this degree: as a poet, as a writer, as a reader, I come out of an identifiable tradition that stretches back pretty much unbroken at least to Blake & Wordsworth & Coleridge, and in the U.S. to Whitman, Dickinson, Melville & Poe. It’s not a random list, tho there are gaps that often strike me as yawning chasms of my own ignorance. My interest in Houseman, my interest in E.A. Robinson, my interest in Ted Kooser, my interest in Glynn Maxwell is pretty darn minimal. I read the Pound-Williams tradition, for example, as leading directly back to that quartet of 19th century Americans, whereas the School of Quietude (SoQ) leads instead to Robinson, Houseman, Kipling, Tennyson. But neither heritage is simple or unbroken – Gertrude Stein is a disruptive presence in the Pound-Williams tradition, for example, as is Joyce. The disappearance of the Objectivists in the 1940s – the first major modernist generation to virtually vanish, if only for a time – represents a crisis in modernism that I think we have yet to fully understand. I sometimes suspect that the shift from an avant-garde model, ushered in by the Preface to Lyrical Ballads in English & by Baudelaire’s prose poems in French (hijacking Bertrand more than following him), which ultimately is a military model, toward what I’ve termed the post-avant, which is more community focused and not inherently allergic to fessing up to its own sense of heritage, was triggered precisely by the absence of the Objectivists at the moment when the New Americans came along. Language poetry, my own generation of the 1970s, came along as a break within the New American vein in the name of that generation’s own higher values – it basically ditched the fetishized “I” and looked at the materials of writing with some of the same cold analytical eye that the abstract expressionists had used with a canvas & Jimi Hendrix used on a guitar. Somewhat inadvertently, it also exposed an inherent conservativism even within the New American tradition. Since then, we have seen a tremendous expansion of American poetry, fueled by an influx of women and people of color and different backgrounds. There are more poets now, and more good ones, than ever before. And the scene doesn’t look even remotely like what it did just 20 years ago when In the American Tree was about to be published.
I have been, I hope, reasonably out front about my own predilections, my likes & dislikes. I’ve insisted on a concept like School of Quietude because there is, and has been for over 150 years, a disequilibrium of power in American letters predicated on control of the publishing lists of the trade presses – the Gang of Eight I referred to in my note on the New York Times last week – and, at least once upon a time, around jobs within the academy. The most destructive and oppressive thing an elite group can do in our society is to pretend that it is the unmarked case, as if Robert Pinsky and John Hollander wrote poetry, but Kasey Mohammad wrote post-modern or New Brutalist poetry, Geof Huth wrote vispo, Erica Hunt & Harryette Mullen wrote langpo. That allows the unmarked set the opportunity of acting as if its monopoly of such traditional institutions as the trade presses and the awards conferred by the publishing industry – there’s that Gang of Eight again – were “normal” & anything outside of that were “exceptional.” In fact, the SoQ is one interest group among many, privileged more by history than by the bad acts of its current practitioners, but real nonetheless. It’s a little like white males coming to own their own whiteness & their gender. It really will be good for the SoQ to own their own heritage – they have more disappeared poets to recover than almost anyone."
I'm going to think about this a little today, in between work-work, and write a little response, I hope.