Boy, Ron Silliman tries to cover a lot of polemical-poetical turf in his post of today (March 14). I don't have time to write a dissertation : I may be on strike in a couple hours, God forbid. Just a few angelically odd responses.

The situation of the anti-war reading in Amherst, so overdetermined ! Here is an event where poetry is already being put to immediate political tasks. Ron questions the wisdom of excluding a poem which because of its obscurity or "difficulty" came across as irrelevant to the purpose of the reading. So Ron is saying that the excluders, by being political in a local sense, were being a-political (allied to the "school of quietude") in a larger sense.

In order to ratify avant-garde radical credentials, as I pointed out in the early days of this blog, an oppositional, us vs. them scenario must always be invoked.

I may be on strike in a few hours so I must keep this brief.

Ron makes his stand on the "difficulty" front. There are conformist anti-intellectual forces which constantly dumb down & standardize & gentilify. This is a hoary a-g argument, actually, easily applicable to all times & places.

What Ron et al. always evade is the fact that there are strictly aesthetic values &/or techniques, which may certainly involve complex highly-difficult feats of compositional synthesis, but which may energetically reach out to the reader with a conceptually clear & articulate & transparent & engaging surface : "deceptively simple", or layered with depth. & by the same token, obscurity & difficulty are not ALWAYS the ticket to aesthetic value or authenticity. Ron wants always to romanticize the odd & the marginal, & in doing so he presents his own stereotypical notion of the audience : that great American audience open to any old kind of quirkiness from "Leaving the Atocha Station" to Jerry Rubin to Seinfeld blah blah blah. Somehow critical distinctions & aesthetic values get blurred when you start blending all the arts with culture in general. The particular values getting blurred here have little to do with the binary politicized polemic of the oppositional school of poetics. The poetry of description, cognition, articulation, communication, & rhetoric need not highlight its elliptical or markedly marginal status - confirming the stereotype of the postmodern "artist" - in order to be effective as poetry.

[art is to hide art]

I remember carrying on these same arguments on the Buff List years ago, with the same people. The outsiders also have their "outside". You Are Here.

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