Sunday, August 01, 2010

Novelty & the New

What's the difference between "the pusuit of mere novelty" and that Poundian injunction to "make it new?"

It's an interesting question, isn't it? Does it have something to do with your own approach to newness? What about gimmickry? Do you use gimmicks in poetry, or are you being "authentic" in reflecting your experience of the world through new techniques? Does the parsing of the verb "to make new" go something like this:

"I am making it new

You are pursuing mere novely.

They are using gimmicks."
All poets, whatever their critical allegiances, have a troubled relationship with the 'tradition.' With all those dead poets breathing over our shoulders (or rather, not breathing...) it's a wonder we ever get any work done... Even innovative poets are often working in areas that have been explored before: flarf is another form of found poetry, viso-poets are exploring areas that have been explored by other poets etc - but they are being pursued in new contexts or with a different approach. There is nothing new under the sun, as the preacher said, yet every day is a new day: we've both been here before and never been here before ever.

What is a gimmick in poetry? Is a sonnet a "gimmick" that just has the dubious virtue of having been around for a long time? Open form has been around since the early poems of Charles Olson: has it now ceased to become a gimmick and become an accepted form of writing now sixty years have passed?

The difference between novely and newness seems to be more to do with the critic's own ideology and less to do with critical acumen. How can you tell that something is going to last? I don't think you can.

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