Friday, February 26, 2010

Aimless Reading: Anthologies, Part 4 (Some Poems/Poets)


Some Poems/Poets
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Charters, Samuel, Ed.
Some Poems/Poets
Studies in Underground
American Poetry Since 1945
w/Photographs by Ann Charters


I can't remember where I bought this, despite the fact that I am sure I bought it within the last three or four years. I have this nagging feeling that I bought it outside of Buffalo -- possibly in Sarasota, where my mother lives. You'd think I have a stronger memory of buying it because I remember that when I did buy it thinking it was a real find.

It's a collection of "loose" readings of several of the "New American" poets -- Spicer, Duncan, Eigner, Olson, Creeley, et al -- all guys, of course, not even a token Barbara Guest thrown into the mix, despite the fact it was published in 1971.

In an earlier post, I took William Bronk to task for his title, Some Words, saying that I found it too vague. I can't decide if this title is better or worse than Some Words. It's less vague in that it's deliberately trying to suggest its own incompleteness, both in terms of its selection of poets and the provisional nature of the examinations contained therein.

But it also has a whiff of that cultural laxity of the sixties that perhaps in its moment had a revolutionary feel but has filtered down to us latter-days as something bordering on that irresponsibility which can be summed up in the wonderful catchphrase, "Whatever."

But I am not sure.

As a counter to the typical stuffy, formal, jargon-spewing and self-important collection of academic essays, I am willing to accept a certain amount of moral laxity in lieu of falling asleep and drooling down the side of my shirt.

Ultimately, a collection of essays, like a book of poems, rests on the quality of the thought that produced them and not on the success or failure of its title. And I think the editor is aware of this, stating as he does in his introduction that he hopes simply to lead the reader to the work and to there let him drink if he so chooses. He wants to avoid hierarchy and judgment and allow the reader to experience the poetry with as little mediation as possible.

But somehow that sounds like that other thing, too, where the critic is doing a strange double evasion. On the one hand he seems to take no responsibility for whatever judgments he is making (both by the content of the essays and by the selection of poets). On the other, he seems to be assuming the mantle of the poet, who of course wants only to be judged by the work, without any preconceived notions, yet he is not actually writing any of the poetry, and thus not taking any of the chances himself.

But then, and again, and then again, and yet...

from the Introduction

I don't want anyone who's interested in contemporary poetry to be put off by any sense of formality in these studies of a group of poems and poets out of the last twenty years of the American poetic experience. Even "study" is too serious a term for what are simply loose responses to some of the implications of the poetry. I'm not trying to explain anything–not American poetry, and not these poems or poets. think that explaining the creative act leads away from the moment of the act–that the explanation begins to take on its own kind of importance–and what I want to do is to lead to the poem, to the poet–to the experience of the poem itself.

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