Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness by Tony Hoagland : Poetry Magazine [article/magazine]

Recognition, Vertigo, and Passionate Worldliness by Tony Hoagland : Poetry Magazine [article/magazine]

I found this article fascinating because it actually articulated the differences between mainstream and non-mainstream poetry in a non-confrontational way, as a kind of argument between a rational, logical way of thinking that sees poetry as a vehicle for ordering the world; and the alternative, Dionysian way of seeing the beauty in and through the chaos of existence.

I liked the article because he was not denying the sophistication of anyone, or saying that one way is better than another. He may personally have his preferences, as I do, as we all do. But Mozart is not less sophisticated than Stravinsky; or vice versa. If mainstream poetry can sometimes to some people 'run the gamut of emotions from A to A' (as was said of Roger Moore's Bond), non-mainstream poetry can seem sometimes to be just a disorganised mess.

I like both kinds of poetry, but lean strongly towards the latter. I'm currently reading Sean Bonney's Document, and wonderful it is too: by turns angry, tender, chaotic, political, even personal. But there's also a sense that he has something to say and he's going to say it. Mainstream poets will probably write poetry that 'has something to say': that is about a specific experience or set of ideas, and then they will describe them. This book too has something to say: but he disrupts the message, makes it hard to read, muddies the water. He still wants you to understand, however; he just doesn't trust the usual ways of communicating, so he goes round the back, the side, below and above the main point. Which is, of course, that capitalism is a bad thing for everyone, including poetry. And who could disagree with that?

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