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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


Stephen Fredman's new book on "transactional" poetry has come out. I think it's a good word for the way in which poetry reaches out of itself to engage with other things. On the first page of his intro he talks about how the poets he knows are so intellectually capacious and engaged. It's really refreshing to overturn the idea of poetry as an art of mere navel-gazing.

I've thought of teaching as transactional in this sense: you don't lecture the students, but engage. You can't just say what you had planned to say, because the faces looking at you make you change your plans. Their comments and questions influence you. This might be a better model than adaptation: the idea that you take an original work and adapt it, so the critic has to study the two things in contrast to each other. That works for a lot of things, like movie adaptations of novels, translations, song settings, parodies... But to bring the transactional into it would emphasize the dynamic quality of the interchange.

What Fredman ways is true of some poets; I know of others who don't seem that way to me at all. I'm not sure it lines up with the avant-garde or non avant-garde division, exactly, though Fredman is in the avant-garde camp. He begins the book with a contrast between Duncan and Antin, and brings Creeley in quickly too. I suspect even the poets whose work I find boring have a lot of interesting intellectual passions.

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