Some second thoughts on poetry groups (see post of yesterday) :

I wrote previously that, with regard to groups, "the historical record is not promising". Yet without the shared interest, the mutual support, of associations of poets, like the "dolce stil nuova" circle around Dante, it's hard to imagine how a full realization of individual talent (for ex. in Dante's case) would have happened. The same goes for Shakespeare's emergence out of the milieu of London verse drama. There are counter-examples (what "school" nurtured Emily Dickinson?) - but these may be more rare. Even Whitman emerged out of groundwork laid by Emerson & Transcendentalism.

Obviously the history shows a variable range of phenomena with regard to group movements. No two have been exactly the same. There are also, I suppose, these concentric rings of influence and affinity - say the smaller, distinct collectives and associations within the general scene of so-called experimental/avant-garde poetry. Maybe somebody has written an anatomy of these groups (American Poetry Wax Museum?).

I don't know, at the moment, if there exists a poetry scene or group into which I would fit or feel comfortable (or they with me). There was an interesting op-ed piece in the local paper today (Providence Journal), by David Brussat, a frequent contributor on local (& international) architectural and preservation issues. Brussat displays a visceral scorn for architectural modernism in all its expressions - sees it as a threat to classicism, beauty in general, and the local historical architecture in Rhode Island. His polemics can sometimes seem narrow-minded and tiresome - any building that shows modern or postmodern tendencies or pizazz comes in for heaps of criticism. But I was struck by his feature this morning, on an Egyptian architect of traditional, "classical" bent, who had just won a prestigious award. (I don't have the paper handy at the moment - will look up the architect's name.) The architect apparently synthesizes Western, Eastern, & Islamic traditions in an effective way.

What struck me about Brussat's argument was its conservative, "Burkean" character. Traditional architecture is based on natural canons of form and local, vernacular styles. 20th-cent. modernism/postmodernism, on the other hand, is a deracinated, revolutionary, pedantically academic & rationalist imposition of ugly, dehumanized, arrogant and impractical theories.

It occurred to me that my off-&-on polemics on behalf of a "world tradition" in poetry (see the AIEE! Poetry jag & many other comments here) take a somewhat similar stance toward the "avant-garde" movements in poetry. Does this put me in the same box with the 90s New Formalists, and the New Criterion crowd? I don't think so. When I look back at my "trajectory" over the last 20 years, it seems to me I am precisely a "liminal" figure (internal emigre!). It's kind of like an MC Escher drawing : if you look at my work from one direction, it's in the modernist, experimental vein : if you look at it from another direction, it's conservative and traditionalist.

So where's my "group"? Nobody's asking me to join.

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