Marjorie Perloffs essay Poetry on the Brink in the May/June 2012 issue rekindled conversation about innovation and canonization in contemporary poetry. To continue and extend the discussion, we cast a wide net and invited 18 poets to address the following question: what is the most significant, troubling, relevant, recalcitrant, misunderstood, or egregious set of opposing terms in discussions about poetics today, and, by extension, what are the limits of binary thinking about poetry? Their responses range from whimsy to diatribe, with meditation, appraisal, tangent, touchstone, anecdote, drollery, confection, wit, and argument in between.
B.K. Fischer and Timothy Donnelly
The chiasmus that girds Elizabethan wit undoes
the charmless binaries our good editors propose
Most new poetic uses wont last, because most of the art from any time wont last, but thats no reason to reject the lot.
By holding poetry and song lyrics to a literary standard, we locate the worth of an artistic endeavor in the most superficial qualities of language.
Im interested in a poetic practice where skeptical processes can make for lyric affect.
A poet understands that language has no static quality, that it exists in a constantly liquid form.
Poetry is better made when poets make it because they need to make it the way they made it.
The pedagogue in me thrives on the teachable, the artist in me courts bewilderment.
Critical binaries can be every bit as expressive as they are repressive.
Im not interested in a poetry that removes itself from our most human risks.
I have wasted my life.
It is easy to arraign something called the Establishment.
Aesthetic conflict has been a central trait of American poetry since the publication of The Waste Land.
Irony can be (and indeed usually is) a conduit for feelings.
It was only through the incantational tunnel of meter that I found a way to move again.
Binaries divide and conquer.
We need to give the poem the elasticity of the musical score or the theatrical script.
If its not a legitimate poem, your body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Like all institutions, the avant-garde canon has been as racially homogenous as mainstream poetry.
Constatation of factEzra Pounds phrasedoes, Im afraid, matter.