poetry dialectics

The oppositional pairs that come up in discussions of poetry – difficulty vs. accessibility, or sincerity vs. knowingness – are always discussed as though they are pressing questions for our time. But these dialectics have always been present. There have always been some poets who value innovation and others who would rather produce highly finished work in the established mode; there have always been some poets whose poems are intimate, and others who seem to hold their work slightly at arms length. The dominant style changes over time, but the tensions within it are of the same type. Looked at that way, very broad classifications like Avant Garde vs. School of Quietude look more like axes on a Myers-Briggs personality test than actual movements.

Hmm. Maybe in the morning I’ll be able to decide whether that’s a brilliant insight or a statement of the obvious.

One Comment

  1. 21 August 2005 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Well, this is true. Though I suspect you scratch it – SoQ vs. a-g, moderns vs. ancients, mss vs. print, whatever – and you uncover very palpable market tension. One side rarely survives without incorporating a few of the other’s strategies, in practice and content.

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