Saturday, November 17, 2007

Teaching Experimental Postmodern Poetics

While is is fairly easy to the my students to understand that postmodern poetry is a form of critique of normative poetic strategies of the 20th century, often I find that, in an odd way, they don't necessarily see such strategies as normative. They are not normal for them in that way that for most normal people poetry is totally abnormal. I am them left with the need to teach them what normal is so they can see why Ashbery is not normal. Anyway, here is one way I do it. I usually illustrate first with a poem by Heaney, "Digging" "Death of a Naturalist" something horribly late-Romantic. Then get them to read some O'Hara and Ashbery. It always works.
Normative poetry is called variously traditional, realist, late-Romantic, free-verse or voice poetics

Elements of The traditional poem:
Titular Law: the title announces the meaning
Formal regularity and coherence
Thematic coherence
Significant Lineation (rhyme or strong enjambment)
Coherence (narrative, logic, syllogism, end lines)
Move from the particular to universal: e.g. Heaney’s “Digging” from digging to creativity as such
Finitude: poems ends significantly

Within which one finds such things as:
Metaphor
Referential certainty
Transparency
Absorption
Expressiveness
Voice
Depth
Subjective certainty
Humanism

Origins:
Romanticism: recollection in tranquillity, alienated poet, wanders in a landscape, encounters an event, recalls it later, poetry forms bridge between the event as such and wider significance for all (to see into the life of things) [cf. Daffodils]

Free Verse Poetics: spontaneity, open form, apparently artless, reliance on the voice as authentic, tends to ‘lineated prose’, seems to renounce constraint in favour of expression (no ideas but in things vs confessionalism)

Modernism: the eternally transient, poeticisation of the word, new-realism, disjuncture as realism, myth, objective correlative, imagism

Cultural Presuppositions about poetry:
Prosody is dead
Motivation is essential
Organic form is still the ideal
Poetry versus prose, that these are somehow now mutually exclusive
Poetry Makes nothing happen
Poetry performs the truth that philosophy seeks re: singularity of being
Every word counts
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