An alternative history of "innovation in poetry" in the last 100 yrs might focus on the displacement of meditation, and meditative poetry, by other forms of intellectual activity : prose or dramatic mimesis (novels, plays, film), music per se, and science. Thus the "radical changes" offered by Modernists and postmodernists alike might be seen as motivated primarily by "displacement anxiety", the urgent desire to maintain position - to keep up with the times.

Thus Ron Silliman's notion (on display again in his post of today) of "quietude", and a "School of Quietude", can be understood, ironically, as an unwitting acknowledgment of this state of affairs. "Quietude" as the return of the repressed.

Meditative poetry dramatizes an act of cognition or intellectual choice. It dramatizes or symbolizes an intellectual action. This kind of action is what remains after the forms of mimetic poetry (in Aristotle's sense - the imitation of a believable action and its moral & other consequences) have been divided up, shared out among other media and other arts, separated from poetry per se.

The frenetic activity around superficial aspects of style & form, the obsession with secondary techniques, the fascination with melodramatic poet-personae : these seem like symptoms of an art-practice which has lost its bearings, lost its position among the other modes of artistic representation.

Meditative poetry is only one branch of this art; but it's the remainder, the leftover of what used to be a much broader and more confident set of means available to poets who want to reflect experience and reality. R.S. Crane's book (mentioned here recently) - by way of a deep and exquisite review of Aristotle's method in the Poetics - offers some real avenues to explore, in new ways, old ways of making poetry.

The formal beauty of mimetic poetry is what pleases us : and this form involves the efficient and proportional synthesis of parts into whole, resulting in a moving image of experience we recognize as true in a new way. Crane shows that Aristotle points toward something more profound and essential at work here, than the old cliche about "delight & instruction". Pleasure and instruction are not poetry's final ends : they are by-products of humanity's interest in and admiration for the beautiful itself. And this formal beauty of a "true representation" is the practical aim of (mimetic) poetry. Its modes or means of achievement, specifically in dramatic poetry, in Aristotle, are 6 in number : primarily thought, character, and plot; secondarily diction, melody and spectacle. But we also find their analogues in mimetic kinds of poetry other than dramatic. Narrative poems; poetic dialogues; soliloquies or meditations; elegies, hymns or panegyrics on particular events or experiences; odes on specific topics or events - all these and many other types of poems exhibit mimetic aspects akin to those of dramatic poetry.

One of the key things Crane emphasizes is how the formal beauty of poetry is a synthesis of elements, of which the language or diction is only one, and not even the most important. Elder Olson also writes about this. To me this is an essential key to opening up a new way of reading and making poems today.

It's not as though some poets of this generation aren't exploring and practicing different aspects of these modes, at a very high level. I think what Crane's and Olson's approach can do, among other things, is to help make clearer what sorts of contemporary poems and styles have some weight, force, and elegance, and what kinds seem to be merely examples of stylistic solipsism, narcissism, and superficiality. They do this by giving more importance to character (ethos), narrative (plot), and subject-matter, than they do to diction and melody. Not that these last are not important, or can be discounted from the beautiful whole which is the ultimate aim : but the center of gravity is shifted. The poem is a tensile "complex" toward which these secondary elements contribute.

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