Drew writes in the comment box for the post on mawkishness two posts down from here:
…mawkishness is the default mode of of American populist poetry and seems to be the primary and maybe even the exclusive effect American poets strive for in their work (with the possible admixture of various modes of middlebrow sententiousness). So it’s a pop effect that’s lost all vitality… not that it couldn’t be reinvented.. so… Go ON…
There’s a reason it’s the default, I believe: its note of truth is the undeniable pathos of being human. We reinvent it by using it, or appropriating it, with full consciousness of its awfulness. Stripped of pathos, we are left with what I have come to think of as QPV: “Quality Post-Modern Verse.” Rid of “the lyrical interference of the ego,” it stands as fine and noble scaffolding, but where can we situate ourselves in it? We will always resonate with mawkishness, even if only because it makes us a little sick, because our lives are absolutely mawkish: cloying, awkward, a little nauseating. Classicists and formalists disdain it as a migrant herd of beasts might disdain a wounded member, leaving it to die whimpering in the snow. To identify with it means to identify with one’s own weakness.
Mawkishness is key to a lover’s abjection, to the code of femininity, and to adolescence, the period of our lives when we are closest to the full rage of life. There is energy in all of these mawkishnesses that we can mine for poetry; without it, we risk merely playing with Legos. I don’t think mawkishness will ever lose vitality.