Yet more debate today about Ron Silliman's critical terminology.

Branding/pigeonholing is truly an inversion of literary criticism. A poem is something new constructed out of shared materials. Criticism relies on catholic taste, common sense, careful discernment. These are requirements for any fair judgement of poems, bodies of work, stylistic trends. On such basis, the critic evaluates the new thing that the poet has made out of shared materials.

The aim of the polemicist and pigeonholer, on the other hand, is to fit individual works into a pattern, an abstraction. The poem is not a new thing, but merely an "example" of a "trend" in a predetermined (and determinist) literary cosmology. The work is thus belittled in the very act of being "named" (though "to brand" - that marketing practice derived from cattle-herding - should not be confused with the dignified verb "to name").

We all generalize - we all draw general conclusions based on particulars; but if our evidence has no grounding in honest criticism, or if it merely serves as fodder for some kind of polemical agenda, of what real value is it for appreciating the qualities of individual works? It's nothing more than a pretentious form of name-calling.

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