Progress in Schooling

Ron Silliman, in his post of today, elaborates further on his taxonomy of the American poetry scene. He sets out all the schools & types & movements & mini-movements of the School of Innovation (my term), & reiterates his notion that the School of Quietude is that vast unexplored region of traditionalist poetry "which tries so very hard to be the unmarked case", the school which will not name itself.

Among other rhetorical questions, he asks, about that space of Quietude : "Not only could such a poet-critic map this space, they could answer some important questions, such as why become the poetry without a name? Why is it so important not to acknowledge the existence of other kinds of poetry?"

It's interesting in this context that he also explains the term "post-avant" - which is his umbrella term for all the innovative branches - as having evolved out of the prior term "avant-garde", which is now obsolete, since said a-g has existed for so long now and become so important that one would have to use the term "avant-garde tradition", to describe it - which is an oxymoron. So "post-avant" is more accurate.

So if the "avant-garde" brand has faded into the past, and "Quietude" is the school that will not name itself, then the "post-avant" poetries dominate a middle space, between two kinds of invisibility...

But to get back to his two questions, above - it seems to me they are related. His "Quietude" covers a vast & varied field of poets and poetry, but perhaps their common characteristic, which defines them as an entity of some sort, is a rejection of the ideology and modus operandi of the School of Innovation. We could describe this praxis in a nutshell as an application, in the field of artistic activity, of the ideology of social-industrial-technological-political Progress - progressive change as an unmixed good. Progressive change requires unremitting, urgent innovations and applications, along with the new names for these entities and activities. Thus in the realm of poetry, a new rhetorical technique will be heralded as a qualitative advance, and a motive for the birth of a whole new poetic "school". Progressive innovation also demands its complement - ie., "the old" : the remainder, the trace, the detritus, the disjecta membra, the waste, the excess... all that stuff which had to be thrown out in order to bring in the new.

Ron's "school without a name" - if it existed - would refuse to name itself, simply because it would not partake in the mythology of mass-industrial innovation in art. If something is not "new", it doesn't need a brand name : it is simply poetry. This relates to Ron's 2nd question, because by the same token, the supposed "quietude" poets would simply not recognize all the various fleets & sub-fleets of the school of Innovation as anything important enough to warrant mention. They might certainly focus on specific poets who have been labeled one way or another : but the branding process itself would be seen as both unimportant and extraneous to the work of finding value in the poetry itself.

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