Now back to my navel

Last week, Josh Corey wrote, of a course he’s developing:

So we’ll start out with Whitman and Dickinson, ancestors of us all, then read healthy chunks of Williams, Eliot, Pound, and Stein. After that I’d like to shift the emphasis to the contemporary, and to get a little more diverse vis-a-vis race, politics, and gender. My pedagogical theory here is, familiarize yourself with the strategies of these six poets and there’s no poem whose tactics you won’t be able to figure out.

and thinking…limited to those six, I’d be hard-pressed to figure out which of them most contributed to the tactics of my own poems. A tiny little bit of each, maybe, with some more dominant notes of the two ladeez? Maybe someone else could figure that out better than I could? But honestly, I don’t feel that directly connected to any of them, so I’m not sure Josh’s formula works.

9 thoughts on “Now back to my navel

  1. Notice, though, that Josh didn’t refer specifically to direct influence: he said that familiarity with those poets’ “strategies” would render a reader more likely to be able to figure out most subsequent poets’ “tactics.” The point being, I take it, that the majority of contemporary practice which might appear strange or challenging to the unitiated reader has been anticipated in one way or another by the particular methodological and presentational choices made by the six in question. So in your case, for example, the di Prima influence probably carries with it Poundian traces, etc. Someone who had difficulty figuring out what your poetry is doing could get some help from reading di Prima, and if they found di Prima challenging, it might help to study Pound and others. I see Josh’s theory, then, as being one of measurable techniques rather than direct lines of conscious inheritance. That said, I’m not necessarily convinced his system is airtight, but it sounds reasonable enough on the face of it. I would want to expand the list slightly to include Stevens, Crane (maybe), Moore (maybe), and the Baroness.

  2. I thought about that, Kasey, that the influences are filtered… but it seems to me that with each filtration there’s a kind of sea change. And I don’t think it’s ever as simply linear as the taxonomists would have it. If I am influenced by diPrima, isn’t it too easy to say that the tactics I somehow absorb through her are Poundian instead of, say, Keatsian? And what if I’m just more influenced by Keats than I am by diPrima (which I am!); how can we trace back the tactics then? True, you do say, “and others,” but because of that I think we need to question any sort of obvious hierarchic or genealogical causality.I would certainly add Stevens, Crane, and Moore to the list (if I thought it was worthwhile to make such a list!) at any rate, as well as Mina Loy, and, I don’t know, Annette Funicello, and Terayama Shuji, and Agnes Martin, and Milton Berle, and…. you see, the list shouldn’t stop, shouldn’t be limited to era or geographic culture or language or even genre, and shouldn’t be reduced. Josh’s is an interesting pedagogic exercise, but it’s flawed at least for me who wants not to think in terms of familially-modeled canons.

  3. Charles Altieri warns against, and rightly so, the “consequences of canons.” Even the so-called “living canon” is under drastic suspicion (by those concerned with precision of any kind) due to the canons almost innate production of hierarchies and linear models of selection. However appealing the pedagogical construct may be, in relation to names, I think as contemporary poets dealing with poetics we must be very very weary about demarcations, genealogies, and canons (esp. those that are manifestly normative and those that lend themselves well to the linear model of antecedents (cause and effect fallacy)).

  4. I agree that it’s important to question an obvious hierarchic or genealogical causality, but I also probably agree with Casey’s point that there are some measurable techniques that aren’t necessarily about direct lines of inheritance. The problem is that most maps of techniques and inheritance are drawn in the same way.I *do* like knowing about peoples influences, though–the ones that they actually say are their influences. I guess I want to think of peoples influences as being more like messy social groups instead of families.Who is Annette Funicello?

  5. Hm. Does Langston Hughes come out this grouping? Cesaire? Maybe, depending on how wide one casts the net of ‘influence/traditions”… i find it more odd the idea that race/gender/etc can be added later, as if such categories aren’t important to understanding the modernists, andor as if diversity is a flavor you can add to a recipe to spice it up…(not to pick on JC, since I know the academy often expects this kind of teleology/pedagogy, and the gambit is at least interesting…)db

  6. < HREF="" REL="nofollow"> Annette Funicello!<>

  7. “I *do* like knowing about peoples influences, though–the ones that they actually say are their influences. I guess I want to think of peoples influences as being more like messy social groups instead of families.”Do you really think that the poet is the best judge of her influences? I think the anxiety of influence certainly plays a role in that name-game/list. I really just don’t think it is that important to create or emphasis a genealogy as though it holds a great amount of importance (it is more of a meandering abstract than an actual coming-to-understand the text that is produced by that poet). In the end I think canons just try to codify by linearity and this is a major problem (pedagogically, intellectually, and artistically).

  8. If one could, one could write a massive book on poetic tactics and game theory poetry. However, many writers these days draw from anywhere/ and can’t and don’t want to be connected to specific precursors. So, while from a pedagogical stance I can relate to Josh Corey’s and Kasey Mohammad’s positions, actual practices move me to side more with Nada Gordon’s position.–1959 (or maybe 1960) Milwakee Wisconsin Dick Clark Caravan – Annette Funicello in an eye-popping red dress

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