Contemporary poetry: Making it new?
Poetry critic and scholar-in-residence at the University of Southern California Marjorie Perloff in the Boston Review online writes about contemporary poetry. That’s right. Poetry. At length. Perloff’s elaborates on an argument put by poetry critic at the University of Georgia and poet Jed Rasula that the growth of graduate degrees in poetry has turned poetry into a uniform product. Any contemporary poem, Perloff observes, is characterised by irregular lines of free verse, with little or no emphasis on the construction of the line itself; a prose style laced with prepositions and parentheses, and lots of graphic ‘poeticity’; and the expression of a small epiphany, usually based on a memory, indicating that the ‘poet’ persona is a particularly sensitive type.
It’s a long, long online article, but interesting for three reasons. First, Perloff gets under the skin of the ‘poetry industry,’ including poetry anthology making, whether you buy her argument or not. Second, it’s spawned some online comment, but not the usual stuff. You see, Perloff’s readers are poets, and some of the poem comments are crackers. Third, it’s an article about contemporary poetry. That’s right. Poetry. At length.
You can read Perloff’s ‘Poetry on the brink: Reinventing the lyric’ here.
Does the model described by Perloff/Rasula accurately describe contemporary poetry? Asked another way, does the model described by Perloff/Rasula accurately describe, say, the poetry of Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes?