The language poets and affiliates thought they could jettison the myth of the lyric self & romantic subjectivity & so on by objectifying "language" as a "material" phenomenon. In doing so they had to narrow down the theory of poetry, exclude all those epiphenomena we ascribe to accurate description, definition, feeling, evocation, symbolism, plot, meaning, etc., and just leave poetry a sort of stripped-down protest against the supposed domination of the signified. Some of the langpos aimed for pure versions of this procedure; their postmodern affiliates used those methods to "torque" (their term) their "language" in eye-catching contemporary fashion.

In my view the "language poetry" concept should be clearly rejected, as a cramping limitation on what poetry actually is and can be. I've tried to do just this, over the years... The essays over here around the Chicago Critics try to present a broader concept, which is formalist in a quasi-Aristotelian sense : the poem is an achieved intellectual-affective form, which is not restricted to its verbal texture - because texture is not the sum or limit of what poetic language does. Instead, language is a transitive element - a form of transportation - which may lead to both referential meanings and to aesthetic (intransitive) equilibrium.

Moreover, poetry is ineluctably personal. (I would go so far as to say that reality itself is ineluctably personal, but that's a somewhat different debate.) We will never return to those archaic times when art was the anonymous social expression of collective myth. But art is not only personal : rather it represents a synthesis of subjective and objective, personal and social. The modes, forms & genres of poetry are past signs (& not always relevant to the present) of the complex struggle to discover or create such syntheses.

The locus of interest in poetry is that very tightrope between these poles : it is precisely this wavering dialectic which opens the line of connection between poet and reader.

I suppose I'm behind the times, being anachronistic, by harping on the langpos and the postmods at this late date. Younger poets have "moved beyond" that bygone era of language poetry's flourishing. But how have they moved beyond? In the direction of new dialects or mannerisms, new sub-schools and urban collectives, new identity-affiliations? I'm suggesting they could move in the direction of a more capacious theoretical understanding of the art's possibilities.

Of course, theory generally (as John Latta's recent quotes from Larkin & O'Hara testify) can be considered inimical to poets and what they do. It is usually irrelevant to the working-out of a poet's life and gift. All I would suggest is that a theory which emphasizes personality, feeling, concreteness, accurate description, formal integrity, and at least the possibility of substantial, verifiable meaning - such a theory would be congruent with the actual practice of those two poets, and perhaps future poets too.

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