What the New Kids Are Doing

For much of the past decade, the most imitated new American poets were slippery, digressive, polyvocalic, creators of overlapping, colorful fragments. Their poems were avowedly personal, although they never retold the poets’ life stories (they did not tell stories at all); the poets used, or at least mentioned, difficult ideas, especially from continental philosophy, although they never laid out philosophical arguments (they did not lay out arguments at all). Nor did they describe concrete objects at length. Full of illogic, of associative leaps, their poems resembled dreams, performances, speeches, or pieces of music, and they were, in M.H. Abrams’s famous formulation, less mirror than lamp: the poets sought to project their own experiences, in sparkling bursts of voluble utterance. Their models, among older authors, were Emily Dickinson, John Berryman, John Ashbery, perhaps Frank O’Hara; some had studied (or studied with) Jorie Graham, and many had picked up devices from the Language writers of the West Coast. These poets were what I, eleven years ago, called “elliptical,” what other (sometimes hostile) observers called “New Lyric,” or “post-avant,” or “Third Way.” Their emblematic first book was Mark Levine’s Debt (1993), their emblematic magazine probably Fence (founded 1998); their bad poems were bad surrealism, random-seeming improvisations, or comic turns hoping only to hold an audience, whether or not they had something to say.

Thanks to Carol for pointing this article out to me.


My thoughts on it when I've had a chance to digest. At the moment, recovering from four hours of brush-cutting.


Random thought: Thinking about film, particularly the old celluloid stuff. How each cell was a picture, and how such a concept influenced book making--namely poetry book making.

Now wondering how digital media will reconstitute the art.

I, unfortunately, wasn't wearing my iPod as I cut brush, so I thought of very random things as I waved the cutter from side to side.


Current spin:

Fanfarlo. They're selling their new album for $1 here and it's quite good. Worth way more than a buck.

Oliver de la Paz