Thursday, August 30, 2012

31 New American Poets

The news that stays news.

Another view of new American poets. 

31 New American Poets

Jack Anderson

G Bishop-Dubjinsky

Besmilr Brigham

Victor Contoski

Gail Dusenbery

Dave Etter

Gene Fowler

Dan Georgakas

John Gill

John Haines

Phyllis Harris

Jim Harrison

Robert Hershon

William M. Hoffman

Emmett Jarrett

Sister Mary Norbert Körte

Robert Lax

Ethel Livingston

Dick Lourie

Clive Matson

Jason Miller

Doug Palmer

Marge Piercy

Alex Raybin

Joel Sloman

Lynn Strongin

John Unterecker

John Stevens Wade

Nancy Willard

Keith Wilson

Jay Wright

Anthologies are always an argument.  This was Ron Schreiber’s argument, published in 1969, with an introduction by Denise Levertov.  Schreiber left out, which might have changed the longevity of this anthology, poets from Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry and Robert Kelly’s A Controversy of Poets, because he wanted to bring newer poets into the mix.  By and large, his argument didn’t go far, but this anthology did bring John Anderson, John Haines, Jim Harrison, Marge Piercy, Nancy Willard, and Jay Wright to the conversation, and they stayed around awhile.  What’s interesting, with these six, is that he was pitching this as something of an outsider, experimental anthology, and the writers that lasted from it are not remembered now as experimental poets.  That’s six from 31, though.  Time is hard on anthologies. 

He writes of these poets as writers of “Direct Verse”:

“What is happening with direct verse is a continual discovery of new forms.  And new forms are important because the form of a poem is the vehicle for its content.  As forms expand, so does the vision of poets.  . . . .

Well, the poets here are worth listening to, not just for the ways they sound but because they see clearly.  . . . .  and all have found those places where the spirit can exult on rage.”

Here are a couple interesting poems, to give you a feel for the aesthetic position:

Victor Contoski

I love people
she said
from a distance. 

Everything in perspective. 

Look over there toward the horizon. 

No, no.  More to your left. 
Right where I’m pointing. 

See it now,
that black dot in the landscape? 

my love. 


‘In the most lightsome darkness’
Sister Mary Norbert Körte

How I would be some night-creature of God
who moves contained in his
quiet          from mulberry to privet
with little hesitation
                             the stumble alien to his feet
his swift going sure in
                    circle, pace, and halt
the step slow as need summons

He knows, this shuttered being
without learning          he culls his black
hours          presses them well
                                                  to hunt
to find his seeking

How I would be some night-creature of God


At 8/30/2012 10:50 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Didn't know Joel was in that one.

At 8/30/2012 11:05 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Indeed he was. The 60s were more interesting than people often now claim they were:

Joel Sloman

I keep thinking of isolated Long Island estates
with rolling lawns, swimming pools and the distant clinking of plates
on the verandah. The people, always seeming to warn
each other of the rules of behavior: how to eat corn
on the cob, how to walk, talk, drink, and deal
with the inconvenience of nature, the perfect meal
being a criticism of the accidental arrangement of the universe.
All solemnity in America is perverse,
all sophistication, a labyrinth that looks like a necessary
rationale. An identity a gleaming estate, isolated from class, the incendiary
vehicle that makes a true revolution possible. Experience is what we learn
from, not the fantasy of our self-programming, as if only a handful of experiences turn
out to be useful. All blueprints are specks in the
eye of history.

At 8/30/2012 2:21 PM, Anonymous L Mathias said...

Is it Jack Anderson or Jon Anderson (the former I've never heard of, the latter I adore). I like that Sloman poem. louise

At 8/30/2012 5:17 PM, Blogger Scott Keeney said...

Not including poets from the Allen and Kelly anthologies makes sense since this was supposed to be presenting new poets, but it's really surprising there's no overlap with Paul Carroll's The Young American Poets from just a year earlier. Schreiber doesn't mention that ? Reading the list of names at the start of the post I thought that must have been deliberate, and anyway it seems like that would have been the more "direct" competitor.

p.s. First time, long time. Congrats on having a blog with one of the few comment streams worth reading on all the Internets. Though I do miss Kent (some of his pettier exchanges with Jordan aside).

At 8/31/2012 5:28 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


It's Jack. Poet and theater critic for the NYT:

At 8/31/2012 8:32 AM, Blogger Sandra Simonds said...

Interesting. Where did you get this thing? Seems like there was some serious miscalculation going on with these choices in terms of who is still writing etc--I haven't heard of 80% of these folks. But are the poems any good?

At 8/31/2012 1:40 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

This chapbook of Joel's has an unforgivable title but the contents are admirable.

At 8/31/2012 3:10 PM, Blogger Sandra Simonds said...

I trust any chapbook that Mark publishes :)

At 9/02/2012 3:54 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9/02/2012 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am happy to see Jay Wright on this list--I adore his poetry: I love how immersive it is, and how he is terrific at verse libre and measured, end-rhymed work.

adam strauss

At 9/03/2012 1:59 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Keith Wilson is someone who deserves more attention. He's part of a quasi-neglectorino immediate-wake second-gen Black Mountain-like loose affinity group, though I'm sure it could be put better than that. Howard McCord, Nathaniel Tarn, Carl Thayler, Ted Enslin, Hilda Morley, Ken Irby, others.

Dave Etter is an interesting case, a poet from the Illinois provinces whose poetry was so purely provincial and dead-pan occasional in flat affect it achieves a kind of Provencal sublimity in reverse. He came to speak to my class at UW/Milwaukee once, when I was a grad student, and only a few years ago I discovered he'd been living for many years in tiny Elgin, Illinois, ten miles down the road from me in Freeport. When I tried to contact him I found out he'd just died.

I had the late John Haines come to read here years back, all the way from Alaska. Before the event I brought him over to my place. He promptly went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and said in a very displeased tone, "What, you mean a poet comes to visit and you don't have any alcohol here?"

Good luck with the Benedikt project, John.

At 9/03/2012 2:50 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I was John Haines date to a game dinner once in Athens, OH, in 98 or so. I think I was invited because I got along with him, or to give him someone he knew to talk to or something. Anyway, we ate some grouse. It was gamey. He talked interestingly about William Carlos Williams. He had some beer. Maybe some wine. He was pretty deaf by that time. I had to speak in loud, clear tones.

I have high hopes for the Benedikt project. Laura Boss (his companion and literary executor) is on board and we both know there’s no money in it . . .

There are a lot of poets, as you note, who have come and gone. The canon is not a contest of the best rising to the top, but a case of the ones with power deciding who rises to the top. I just wish a lot of them had better taste.

At 9/03/2012 2:51 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


At 9/03/2012 5:38 PM, Anonymous Loudermilk said...

I once ate grouse with Jim Harrison. He'd shot it himself.

At 9/03/2012 6:04 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Gamey, wasn't it?

At 9/04/2012 6:35 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>I once ate grouse with Jim Harrison. He'd shot it himself.

I once sat zazen with Gary Snyder in Freeport, IL. We'd just finished milking some cows at my friend's farm.

Beat that.

At 9/04/2012 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Larger motions hide or blur smaller motions.

At 9/04/2012 7:31 AM, Anonymous Loudermilk said...

I was standing around the fantail of the Orizaba in the Gulf of Mexico when this guy with a black eye took off his coat, draped it over a deck chair, said a drunken goodbye to all and sundry, and jumped overboard.

At 9/12/2012 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Nancy Willard??



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