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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Formative (14): Perloff & O'Hara

One day an issue of APR came with Frank O'Hara's picture on it. O'Hara was one of my favorite poets. Inside was an article by Marjorie P. on FO'H. Later, when I was about to graduate from college, I went to the new book section of the library and found a book called Poetics of Indeterminacy. This was the book I wanted to have written. I wanted to write a book like that about Spanish and / or Latin American poetry. I didn't meet her until several years later but she was a formative influence.

In the first place, there is the canon. MP has legitimated the study of whole swaths of material, from O'Hara to Goldsmith. This has met with a lot of resistance. How dare she treat language poetry or John Cage as legitimate objects of academic study? Often, the argument is that she has been too successful in this enterprise. In other words, people complain that all the things she has studied are now too academic, forgetting that they weren't always such.

Secondly, a method or approach, consisting merely of writing clearly and forcefully, with attention to what the words on the page actually are. That gets you very far.


3 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

Merely, indeed. I too have benefited from this book. Can't remember how I came across her (I may actually have heard of her daughter first). Note also that she doesn't generally write as if the interest of her subject needed explicit defense -- rather, she just gets into it.

Jonathan said...

Yes. I was thinking more of the response to her: like "How dare she treat that as worthy of attention. In this response we see her worth. Mostly recently, people were objecting to her article on the avant-garde in the Princeton Enc. of Poetry and Poetics. How dare she mention conceptual poetry!

Andrew Shields said...

Vance, I like this: "Note also that she doesn't generally write as if the interest of her subject needed explicit defense -- rather, she just gets into it."

That will make her readable in a hundred years, when those who defend their interest in a subject will be unreadable, because of the absence of the context that made the defense necessary.

I try to get my students to think like that.