Monday, January 05, 2009

American Hybrid? Coming Soon!

Ok, so does anyone out there know where I can find the table of contents for American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry?

I'm quite fascinated by what Cole Swensen and David St. John might have come up with. I'm worried a bit by the fact that, in the essay in the brand new Writer's Chronicle that reprints Swensen's introduction, that she might be casting most of her attention at writers in their 30s. This age thing has me in knots (tomorrow is my birthday you see, and I'm turning 44), as I'm wondering why it seems important for people to notice. Ron Silliman did a similar thing a few days ago nodding to poets in their 20s and 30s who will be taking poetry someplace . . .

Anyway, more on that after I think about it for a few more days. A few more jealous, soul-searching days as I have to suddenly feel like I'm already boxed into the past. Ouch. I hope poets over 40 still matter. And will continue to do so.

Is all this talk about young poets just shorthand for "the future," or is it a manifestation of the cult of the young? We do so love the young, especially in the abstract. Anyway, the age thing wasn’t really the point of either Silliman’s post the other day or Swensen’s forward to American Hybrid. So, to redirect.

Swensen’s forward ends with a move I’ve always really liked, the “come to meeting” move, where we’re all in this together:

“Poetry is eternally marked by, even determined by, difference, but that very difference changes and moves. At the moment, it is moving inside, into the center of the writing itself, fissuring its smooth faces into fragments that make us reconsider the ethics of language, on the one hand, and redraft our notions of a whole, on the other. Putting less emphasis on external differences, those among poets and their relative positions, leaves us all in a better position to fight a much more important battle for the integrity of language in the face of commercial and political misuse. It’s a battle that brings poetry back to its mandate as articulated by Mallarmé: to give a purer sense to the language of the tribe. It’s something only poetry can do.”

I want this to be true. I really do. And when I look out at a lot of poetry (poetry that I love and poetry that I don’t love but in which I can see worth), I can feel it to be true, but there are a lot of poems out there that I feel misuse language in just the same way that the political and the commercial misuse it. That’s a thorny little caveat to get around, at least for me.

And then Mallarmé. Has that ever really been true? Maybe it was once, when dictionary makers went to literature for examples of usage, but is there any way that the language today bears any vestige of “a purer sense” after all the strong poems that have been written? Perhaps we, the readers of poetry, can claim some benefit from all the subtlety and clarity, but can anyone else?

That said, as a reader of poetry, I’m looking forward to this anthology. I’m sure to like a lot of it.


At 1/05/2009 2:18 PM, Blogger Oliver de la Paz said...

Happy Birthday? "Sugar Mountain" is oh so appropriate, yes?

At 1/05/2009 2:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'd like to be 44 again-- while I can't help with the table of contents, I can definitely tell you (which you probably know anyway) that poets over the age of 39 have always mattered & will continue to; I noticed Silliman's 20s & 30s thing, & I suppose all of us over the age of 40 (50+ in my case)probably get a bit of a shudder from that, but the fact is there are all sorts of examples-- "contemporary" & otherwise-- of poets producing their best work later in life.

J Hayes

At 1/05/2009 5:55 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Thanks OdlP! Yeah, it's starting to feel more like Harvest Moon now...

JH: You know, the age thing is weird. I wonder if it's not more a thing to say (those 20 and 30 year olds and what they'll do) than it is a real feeling out there. One of those "those that will inherit" kind of things?

But yeah, age is almost meaningless when it comes to artistic relevance (Ashbery, Stevens, Yeats, Bishop and on down to Armantrout and Cole Swensen and Ron Silliman . . .).

At 1/05/2009 6:40 PM, Blogger marybid said...

John, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has been digging around for that TOC. I didn't know what to make of what I read.

Isn't it a little early to be talking about poets in their thirties? I mean, aren't they still in diapers? Figuratively?

At 1/05/2009 7:16 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Hey, you're in your 30s! You're one of them!

At 1/06/2009 7:30 AM, Blogger marybid said...

That's how I know about the diapers, John.


Happy birthday! :)

At 1/06/2009 12:12 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Robert Bly (!) once wrote something like poets should not be allowed to publish a book until after they were 30.

I always thought that was silly, even if I saw a bit of his point.

Poets should publish a book of poetry whenever they have themselves a good book of poetry to publish, even if they're wearing diapers while writing it.

I've never been much for fashion.

WV: andwins

At 1/06/2009 2:34 PM, Blogger Justin Evans said...

Just now feeling a little Harvest Moon?

I have been feeling Harvest Moon for a long time now, but then i was feeling Harvest when I was 17.

When I was a senior in high school, I mapped out an entire novel based on the songs from Decade.

Well, Happy Birthday to you!

As for the poets in their 30's . . ., my only regret is that I wasted a whole decade of my life waiting for poetry to come to me when i should have been out there chasing it down. Now I am paying for my sins and I have missed any chance (no matter how slight) to be a poet of any weight.

In my 40's which begin this summer, I hope to be able to say I might have a book or two in me and come to terms with my mediocrity, or wherever my station is further down on the food chain.

At 1/06/2009 4:35 PM, Blogger Anne Haines said...

Sometimes the Library of Congress catalog record includes the ToC, but they don't have this one, at least not yet. (You can see the record at if you want.) WorldCat ( doesn't have the ToC yet either. But it might show up there at some point.

And poets over 40 had better matter! I'll be 48 this year and I haven't even had a book published yet. Guess I'm just slow. ;) Happy birthday, btw!

At 1/07/2009 12:35 PM, Blogger Louise Mathias said...

Probably not toooo many poets in their 30's in it as DSJ told me all the poets had at least 2 books.

At 1/07/2009 12:39 PM, Blogger Louise Mathias said...

Event from the AWP Schedule:

F140. The Poets of American Hybrid. (David St. John, Ralph Angel, Alice Fulton, Rae Armantrout, Peter Gizzi) This reading represents the range and diversity of poetry collected in the new Norton anthology American Hybrid, the premise of which is that the day of "poetic schools" is long over and the best of American poetry has been drawing, for many years, from all aspects of poetic endeavor in this country.

If that's any indication, then the poets are "well-seasoned" ;)

At 1/07/2009 12:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Re: "the premise of which is that the day of "poetic schools" is long over and the best of American poetry has been drawing, for many years, from all aspects of poetic endeavor in this country."-- that would be a premise whose time has come, in my opinion.

At 1/07/2009 3:55 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

(David St. John, Ralph Angel, Alice Fulton, Rae Armantrout, Peter Gizzi)

Interesting, to think of them as hybrids. Huh. Well, I like them all fine, especially Armantrout, so I'm cool with that. Still, huh, how interesting.

At 1/08/2009 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

See this commentary on it.

At 1/08/2009 6:38 PM, Blogger Dan said...

I just sent a Tweet about this yesterday, because it looks really interesting. From the AWP program (there are multiple panels and readings for the book) here's who is listed, a few new names to the post: Armantrout, Gizzi, St. John, Angel, Fulton, Swenson, Gander, Hillman, Bedient, Emanuel, McMorris, Revell, Sikelianos, and Ramke.

At 1/08/2009 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The larger truth: We are all mere butterflies pinned to the cover of the great Anthology of Life.

AWP or no AWP. Really.


At 1/09/2009 5:20 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Dan - Well that seems like a perfectly fine little group to build an anthology around. I wonder though, why Swensen made such a strong pitch in the introduction. I suppose it was a sort of "the reason for the anthology." And maybe why this anthology is different from Shepherd's Lyric Postmodernisms.

Still, though, I would like to revisit the assertion that we're past binaries. Maybe we have a third term here, which a lot of people have been saying for some time, but that doesn't cause the edge binaries to evaporate.

I just looked at a copy of Poetry Magazine the oter day. The binary is still at work.

At 1/29/2009 8:01 AM, Blogger Cole Swensen said...

Dear John---first, thank you for taking an interest in the upcoming American Hybrid anthology in your January 5 post---I wish I had seen it when it first went up; it may be beyond the point to enter the conversation so late, but I’ll leap in anyway. I’m putting the table of contents below as it appears in the book, which is arranged alphabetically, and as you’ll see, almost everyone in it is over 40. And then some. I find the issue of age not only interesting, but crucial; the writers in this anthology were chosen because the depth, intricacy, and power of their poetry is something that can only be attained through years and years of work. David St. John and I started this project because we recognized that what we were seeing as vital and vibrant in the work of people in their 30s, and even late 20s in some cases, was in fact indebted to gestures made one or two generations earlier. General conversation tends to regard the poetry of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s as heavily partisan, which it was, but in retrospect, the aesthetic moves of the most electric writers of those years were, in fact, often not fused to a polemic, but, quite the opposite; these writers were paying attention to various historical and contemporary aesthetic stances and infusing them with their own idiosyncratic inclinations, and are still doing so, taking American poetry in directions that eroded the binary---in short, exactly what John Hayes said in his 12:46 post. And I fully agree with you, John, in your 5:20 post re Poetry magazine: the extremes haven’t gone away, but I do think they’ve been importantly augmented by a much less definable and more dynamic activity that disregards the limits of those extremes. But because it’s less definable, that activity can be discounted, under-theorized and under-discussed. Our point, in part, is to suggest a re-look at some writers who are associated with one or the other of those extremes, to really look at the work, and recognize that they are actually among the writers who’ve broken them down. Thanks again for your interest and all your comments. Warm cheers! Cole

Table of Contents for American Hybrid
Adnan Etel
Angel Ralph
Armantrout Rae
Ashbery John
Bang Mary Jo
Beckman Joshua
Bedient Cal
Bendall Molly
Berssenbrugge Mei-mei
Burkard Michael
Clary Killarney
Cole Norma
Conoley Gillian
Corless-Smith Martin
Doris Stacy
Dubie Norman
Emanuel Lynn
Fraser Kathleen
Fulton Alice
Galvin James
Gander Forrest
Giscombe C.S.
Gizzi Peter
Goldbarth Albert
Graham Jorie
Guest Barbara
Hass Robert
Hejinian Lynn
Hillman Brenda
Hoover Paul
Howe Susan
Howe Fanny
Joron Andrew
Keelan Claudia
Kim Myung Mi
Lauterbach Anne
Levine Mark
Mackey Nate
Marlis Stefanie
McMorris Mark
Miller Jane
Moriarty Laura
Moxley Jennifer
Mullen Laura
Mullen Harryette
Notley Alice
Palmer Michael
Powell D. A.
Ramke Bin
Rankine Claudia
Ratcliffe Stephen
Revell Don
Robinson Elizabeth
Ronk Martha
Ruefle Mary
Sikelianos Eleni
Shepherd Reginald
Smith Rod
Snow Carol
Spahr Julianna
Stewart Susan
Taggart John
Vogelsang Arthur
Waldman Anne
Waldrop Rosmarie
Waldrop Keith
Welish Marjorie
Wheeler Susan
Wier Dara
Willis Liz
Wright Charles
Wright CD
Yau John
Young Dean


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