Friday, August 10, 2007

Laurel Update

We’re sending the next issue of The Laurel Review to the printer on Monday, it will include poetry from

David Baker, Linda Bierds, Paula Closson Buck, Catherine Daly, Shira Dentz, Angie Estes, Kathy Fagan, Albert Goldbarth, Linda Gregerson, Thomas Heise, John Hoppenthaler, Catherine Imbriglio, Cat Jones, Aby Kaupang, Sally Keith, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Joanna Klink, David Lazar, Matt Mason, Christopher Matthews, Richard Meier, Jeanne Stauffer-Merle, Carl Phillips, Emily Rosko, Steven D. Schroeder, Jason Tandon, Jonathan Weinert, Greg Wrenn, and Jean Valentine

Fiction from:

Charles Heiner, Catherine Kriege, and Daniel T. Smith

Essays from:

Maxine Chernoff, Wayne Miller, J.D. Smith, Mark Spitzer, Brian Jay Stanley, and Holly Welker

and Reviews from:

Peter Makuck, on the poetry of Anele Rubin and Michael McFee, and Scott Minar, on Mark Strand’s Man and Camel

Here’s a snip of what’s to come:

from “Homeland Security” by Maxine Chernoff
The Laurel Review 41.2, Summer 2007

Thus, the continued attention to difficulty is one outcome of a long cultural struggle. As critic Steve Evans states in an article in Baffler 17, “the distinctive project shared by Gioia at the NEA, Barr at the Poetry Foundation, and their partner in several recent projects, Kooser, can be summarized rather simply: to deny, disrupt, and discredit existing networks of poetry production which are seen as pathetically small, disgustingly smug, and like subsidized farming—crypto-socialist, and to restore to his rightful place of preeminence the reader, referred to as `common` or `general,` who validates good poetry by actually paying for it on the open market and who never did have much use for the linguistic shenanigans of modernism and its successors.”

More tellingly if these efforts succeed, as Evans explains, gone would be “all traces of social movements that made such vigorous use of poetry. . . .Gone the gay writers and readers, gone the advocates of civil rights and multiculturalism. Gone finally and most satisfyingly, the cities, those unpredictable points of contact and collision that inspire vernacular poetries, cosmopolitan avant-gardes, and everything in between.”

The poetry simplifiers, as I call them, will have eradicated all that they don’t prize—suppressing it, essentializing it—all under the guise of making poetry healthy again and useful to “the people.” Populist interests will have been used to serve the goals of a powerful and conservative elite that wishes to win back poetry as a tool for its social agenda.


At 8/10/2007 2:37 PM, Blogger Busstogate said...

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At 8/10/2007 2:42 PM, Blogger Busstogate said...

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At 8/10/2007 2:44 PM, Blogger Busstogate said...

Chernoff does capture the polarizing state of "modern" poetry quite well. I've read an interview of Kooser's lately that somewhat echoes the sentiment he is being attirbuted to, but the tone was quite different. I don't get from Kooser, or from my readings of Gioia, that there is an agenda to silence the experimental poet.

Gioia has also spoken against LANGUAGE before, but I never understood he had intentions of trying to censor. Given the position he has, it wouldn't surprise me to hear he favors or sponsors like-minded stylists. He won't be the first or the last to do this.

The idea of being a "regional" poet strikes me odd as well. Of course, Kooser has probably gained most of his notoriety for being one, but like any tag, there's always more than meets the eye. Perhaps an anthology printed thirty years from now will consider someone who writes about steel mills going broke as a nature poet. Allegrezza's recent mini-anthology The City Visibile , in which Chernoff is also featured, does a good job of putting Chicago out there as a place where poets gather to write, yet without the tell-tale signs of the writers showing that they are from the city.

Of course, dismissing political reformers in the poetry world is impossible, as even the well-meaning populist can turn into a tyrant if given a mandate.

Preposterous to say or not, it's beginning to sound like people on both sides are getting a little too concerned with money to be made from writing verses. Dr. Johnson did talk about how only fools write for simply pleasure, but could it be writers are actually getting wealthy from poetry? I understand the dynamic of getting fellowships, choice professorships and the like. Do the agitators on both sides realize or even care that poetry is not going to be displacing other methods of entertainment or providing news, no matter what either side accuses or champions?

Please help me see the bigger picture here, as it seems fairly much a huge loss for all in the poetry community to keep fostering agitation within acadamies or marketplaces.

At 8/10/2007 2:56 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

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At 8/10/2007 2:57 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Looking forward to the issue.

My take on Chernoff's piece is similar to the above poster's, I think--the Gioia/Barr axis's efforts seem more well-intentioned and silly to me than malevolent, and the excerpt here comes across as somewhat histrionic. Which is kind of too bad, because there are certainly flaws in the "popularization" efforts that are much more worthwhile to point out, in my opinion.

Sorry, caught a typo right after I posted...

At 8/10/2007 3:03 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Your point is well taken. Not to speak for Chernoff (and this is only a snip of a much longer essay), but what I'm noticing myself is not the overt silencing of a form of poetry writing, but instead a - perhaps understandable - championing of a different form. That would seem obvious and understandable, but those doing the championing have quite a bit of money, and are able to champion with real clout.

It would be wonderful, wouldn't it, if all poets were to band together and something unified to say about poetry, but it's kind of like Republicans and Democrats. Those in charge are always saying that those not in charge are playing politics, while those not in charge are always saying, no, we're trying to steer away from the damage your side is doing.

Something like that. I've heard similar arguments made against the large New York publishing houses. And they have no affiliation with Gioia and Barr and Kooser. So it really is more than just a simple "us" versus "them" situation.

Or something like that.


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