By Oren Izenberg
"Because it's not that i am silent," George Oppen wrote, "the poems are bad." What does it suggest for the goodness of an paintings to rely on its disappearance? In Being a variety of, Oren Izenberg bargains a brand new approach to comprehend the divisions that arrange twentieth-century poetry. He argues that crucial clash isn't really among kinds or aesthetic politics, yet among poets who search to maintain or produce the incommensurable particularity of expertise by way of making strong gadgets, and poets whose radical dedication to summary personhood turns out altogether incompatible with experience--and with poems.
Reading around the obvious gulf that separates conventional and avant-garde poets, Izenberg finds the typical philosophical urgency that lies at the back of different different types of poetic difficulty--from Yeats's esoteric symbolism and Oppen's minimalism and silence to O'Hara's pleased slightness and the Language poets' rejection of conventional aesthetic satisfactions. For those poets, what starts as a realistic query in regards to the behavior of literary life--what distinguishes a poet or team of poets?--ends up as an ontological inquiry approximately social existence: what's anyone and the way is a neighborhood attainable? within the face of the violence and dislocation of the 20th century, those poets face up to their will to mastery, draw back from the sensual richness in their most powerful paintings, and undermine the particularity in their inventive and ethical visions--all which will let personhood itself to become an indisputable fact making an unrefusable declare.
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Extra info for Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life (20/21)
In my third chapter, I turn to a poet whose problem is a specificity bordering on triviality. Whether criticized for his absence of technique and narrow frame of reference, or celebrated for his unadorned inclusion of everyday life, Frank O’Hara’s “I do this, I do that” poems are best known for their loquacious over-particularity. Even loving O’Hara, as so many do, presents at once an aesthetic problem—Why should we care about the expression of such slight catalogues of likes and dislikes? —and an ethical problem—Why should we commit ourselves to a world in which the value of the person seems dependent on the vicissitudes of taste?
The radically different barriers to acceptance or comprehension that these poets present to readers—their moral or conceptual incoherence, their silence, triviality, boredom, or indifference—these are not indicators of incommensurable projects, but rather indexes of their convergence, out of idiosyncrasy, upon a shared account of poetry and of personhood: one that is deliberately hostile not just to “social contingency” and “public reading” but to all contingency and to any reading. Such an account may cross the distinct strands that make up the history of poetry without transcending history itself.
There may be as many kinds of poetry as there are shapes that the living hand can form or modes of reflection that the furnished mind can undertake. But as the case studies that follow will show, reading in the history of the theory of poetry may benefit from a less straitened sense of what counts as a context and a more capacious view of what constitutes a moment. 77 Poetic responses to contingency are influenced by noncontingent entailments of the medium; the fact that a poem is a made thing that is heard, read, or seen motivates its perennial interest in problems of voice and address, substance and its perception.