A comment I posted over here at the Harriet blog :

"I don't think poetry-writing per se is a privileged occupation. Some poets can make a profession out of it, and others may view that as expression of privilege or some other form of social elitism. But poetry-writing per se is a kind of work as well as play. There's nothing inherently privileged about creative activity. Seems rather puritanical to think so.

The US poetry scene does seem to have its share of confusion... but perhaps that's in the eye of (this) beholder. Perhaps the problem is not so much with the poetry scene(s) as with the climate & methods of critical and aesthetic judgement.

My own feeling today, & I hope to write something more substantial about this, is that the US focus on groups and schools - and also the mode of vision we have inherited from the 20th century, which analyzes art in minute and pedantic detail solely in terms of progressive changes in technique and style, developed in turn to keep up with rapid transformations of history in general - that these two standard approaches to critical judgement are missing something essential.

Reginald Shepherd has picked apart some of these problems, by carefully reviewing some of the history. But I think maybe we need to have a fundamental change in the way we exercise aesthetic judgement and critique. There are a couple of basic categories which the critic or commentator applies : classification and evaluation. And for the most part, contemporary reviewers seem to apply a method we might call "non-judgmental classification". It's enough to outline for the reader what school or tradition the contemporary poet represents, and then enthuse over what seem to be the clever high points of the technique applied within that specific genre or style.

I think we need to get back to evaluation of quality per se, rather than generic/historical classification. When you start to consider aesthetic quality, the first characteristic which jumps to the fore is the poetry's distinctiveness, its originality, its uniqueness. The "new" here is not a function of clever application of supposedly new techniques; it's the synthesis of original and previously-unseen aesthetic wholes. It's the successful poetic expression of new problems and new subject-matter. This phenomenon always requires that the individual poet outgrow, SURPASS the tradition or school from which he or she proceeds. And in fact I think the most effective means of achieving such a level of style is by outgrowing one's parochial beginnings, into the broader, global tradition of poetry, going back to ancient times. & IF THIS IS THE CASE - this fact has serious implications for notions of "progressive" changes in aesthetic styles; because it means that in order for a poet to reach a certain level of quality, he or she has to grasp & apply techniques and modes of address which HAVE ALWAYS EXISTED.

Thus there is a paradigmatically ANACHRONISTIC aspect to aesthetic quality. & I would say that a critical approach that forcuses on the evaluation of individual quality, rather than genetic classification, would be a possible element of a future climate of rfeception for poetry in the US - something I wouldn't want to call either neo-classical or neo-formalist, because these imply a far too narrow set of styles - but maybe "new classicism". (cf. Osip Mandelstam, again, for his similar notion of a sort of "classicism of the future".)

"p.s. I guess "neo-classicism" and "new classicism": are pretty much the same thing.... what's a better term? Perennialism? Permanent poetry? Recapitulationism? Antidisestablishmentarianism? ??"

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