I know one of the arguments against avant garde (and post-avant) poetics is when it’s disjointed or fragmented or mucks with syntax it’s all surface or the poet is a misunderstood genius. I’ve thought it was a silly argument. I mean what is surface? How do we determine depth?
But lately I’ve begun to question this idea. The poetry of Bill Knot, Dean Young, James Tate etc. use avant garde techniques for the dominant poetry tradition (whatever it might be called. It doesn’t have a name because its the center. Style is clothing. Clothing is surface. Is there anything under the clothing? Sure, maybe not so much a soul, but many parts of the body hidden via societal pressures, fears, etc. In other words power, language, socialization and so on.
Dean Young is just cool. Sometimes fun I admit, but not coming from an avant garde tradition (he has proclaimed he is not part of the avant garde tradition so good for him for recognizing it). But Dean Young doesn’t grab me like James Tate. But I do like some of the style of Dean Young. You can count on the style of Dean Young. He has a great voice. You could recognize it anywhere.
I can no longer attempt to separate mind/body. I just gotta think through language. Rigor doesn’t have to be boring, a chore etc. I just don’t get the point of most of the contemporary poetry books at Barnes and Noble. I mean who’s their audience besides poets in MFA programs?
I write for non poets and sometimes poets but probably my small audience is almost all poets.
I know this has been argued many times before. Nothing new. But I once thought I was in-between and it was best not to be a part of any group or tradition.
The community of in between. Living and dead.