dicey dichotomies

Robert Archambeau's recent remarks on the "Battle of Chicago" (Brit Poetry Wars) echo the various histories of stylistic division on these shores (SoQ/Post-Avant, New Americans/New Critics, Experimentals/New Formalists, Raw/Cooked, Moderns/Victorians, etc. etc.).

Have been wondering (in a vague way) this week whether these dichotomies are not symptoms of something deeper, more elusive - something involved with the nature of poets & poetry generally...

If to make a poem is to take a particular step into the social, public arena, perhaps there's a basic binary there - the step is either joining or defying (or escaping, or avoiding). Either yes or no.

The trouble is, every poet is a jumble of yes and no - mixed together in a unique, unrepeatable way. Often the efforts to align or group poets (mainstream or oppositional, for example) involve eliding the uncomfortable fact that group defiance is just the obverse of group joining.

It seems best to focus on the aims and motives of a particular work, rather than aligning poets with groups or styles. Because the most accomplished writing often involves a process of distinguishing or differentiating - which is the method by which the work says something clear, determined and new.

As for me, I'm a chaos of mixed motives & feelings. Discouragement over (non)recognition - combined with fear of entrapment in what seems like self-enclosed, ingrown aestheticism (part of me doesn't like being a poet). & on another level, the difficulty involved in balancing poetry with other kinds of thought (religion, philosophy...). Poetry & thought don't always work together. They're like two headstrong horses on a chariot...

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