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Note the paucity of explanation: the New American Poets "reject all those qualities typical of academic verse," and many are "closely allied" to jazz or abstract expressionist painting. Pound's "Make it New!

And indeed Allen is guided by two simple principles of selection: non-publication in the major venues, and, as the editor now goes on to explain, group identity or what we might call community. There are five such groups in the anthology. Note that of these ten, only one Levertov is a woman--a fact which will become important in alternate canon-making later.

And note further that Olson, Duncan, and Creeley constitute a kind of triumvirate, the other male poets being somewhat secondary, even for Allen, as they will be for later anthologists. Indeed, one, Paul Carroll, has disappeared from just about everyone's list. The second group is designated as the San Francisco Renaissance, Duncan emerging as the leading poet of this group even as he also belongs to Black Mountain. The San Francisco Renaissance is closely allied to the third group, "The Beat Generation," the main difference being that the latter was originally associated with New York.

It includes Allen Ginsberg, his young friend Peter Orlovsky, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso--only four poets, all of whom, incidentally, came into contact with the second group at readings in San Francisco. This is of course the group allied with Abstract Expressionism.

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And finally, Allen isolates a fifth group of somewhat younger poets that "has no geographical definition. As Allen says, his groups are "for the most part more historical than actual" and "can be justified finally only as a means to give the reader some sense of milieu" xiii. Why should the publication of this relatively small anthology, comprised of forty-four then largely unknown poets, located primarily in New York, San Francisco, or, so to speak, "On the Road," become such an historical event?

First, because in the early sixties, there really was a dominant poetic discourse--a discourse, incidentally, that, from our vantage point in the nineties, was by no means that of the Modernism of the early century. In , the Age Demanded that a poem be self-contained, coherent, and unified: that it present, indirectly to be sure, a paradox, oblique truth or special insight, utilizing the devices of irony, concrete imagery, symbolism, and structural economy. I shall not rehearse yet again this familiar material. So popular was The New American Poetry that by the late seventies, Don Allen was being urged on all sides to revise it and bring it up to date.

Others like Jack Kerouac and Lew Welch had died prematurely. And there was, by this time, a demand for more women. As against the modest Preface of the earlier volume, The Postmoderns has a much more serious introduction evidently written largely by Butterick 6 , and more comprehensive biographical and bibliographical materials. Of the forty-four original poets, fifteen were dropped, less on the grounds of absolute merit than because of their lack of ongoing production or, as in the case of Gilbert Sorrentino, a shift to writing fiction rather than lyric.

And the geographical groupings were eliminated in favor of a chronological arrangement. With all this tinkering, the punch of the original New American Poetry was largely lost. Here Butterick's new Preface is revealing. Opposition to "academic verse" and "formalism" is no longer enough: rather the new "experimental" poetry, so the editors claim, is squarely in "the mainstream of Emerson and Whitman, Pound and Williams" GB 9. And we read:.

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For some, imagism has been a chief source of inspiration, for others-- notably O'Hara and Ashbery--the dissociations of post-symbolist French poetry. They respond to the limits of industrialism and high technology often by a marked spiritual advance or deference, an embracing of the primal energies of a tribal or communal spirit, side by side with the most stubborn sort of American individualism..

There are revolutionaries among them, as well as quiet but no less deliberate practitioners. Their most common bond is a spontaneous utilization of subject and technique, a prevailing "instantism" that nevertheless does not preclude discursive ponderings and large-canvased reflections. They are most of them forward-looking at a time when concepts such as entropy and global village have entered daily life. The difficulty here, of course, is that each of the characteristics listed could apply equally well to an entirely different set of poets.

As for the "spiritual" response to the "limits of industrialism," think of Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich, Richard Hugo and William Stafford, "Tribal and communal energies" Butterick is evidently referring to the ethnopoetics of Jerome Rothenberg were turning up in the new black poetry--for example, Audre Lorde's and Michael Harper's, which is not included in The Postmoderns. As for the "prevailing 'instantism'," cited as the postmoderns' "most common bond," surely Robert Bly could lay claim to this trait as might W. So it had, but as they themselves recognize, "confirmation" goes hand in hand with mainstreaming.

Indeed, by , those unknown broadside and "little mag" poets Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, had become nothing if not "respectable. Indeed, by , there was no longer a clear line of demarcation between the raw and the cooked, the oppositional and the established, the "experimental" and the "safe. Keep-It-Moving projectivism had lost some of its edge because poetasters all over the U. If the The Postmoderns thus has something of a retro air, the problem is that the "radical" tradition of "Projective Verse," which was its point of departure, and which was by this time some thirty years old, was accepted by its adherents as normative without the further debate which might have thickened the plot.

Perhaps this happened because the Olsonites were still embattled, seeing that, in the larger world, "composition by field" had never quite caught on. Weinberger's prefatory note begins with the by now familiar division into "two camps. On the other side is an opposition still intensely aware of its outsider status, yet now increasingly dissatisfied with the banners under which it once rallied: avant-garde , experimental , non-academic , radical " EW xi. Yet, even if these "banners" no longer work, even if "the distinction between the two parties has always been blurred," Weinberger is nevertheless convinced that "inequities.

Today, in the current population explosion of poets, they are greater than ever" EW xi. But Weinberger's thirty-five chosen "innovators and outsiders," all of them from the U. His two principles of inclusion are 1 only poems first published in book form since and 2 no poets born after World War II. In a now notorious essay for American Poetry Review 9 23, no.

Thus Pound's Cathay , with its appropriation of China as some sort of exotic Other , is hardly the ideal yardstick by which to measure the current work of the "innovators and outsiders," some of whom happen to be Chinese, who are producing poetry in the U. Indeed, Yau insists, the Pound-Williams-H. And Yau now goes on to play the "Where is?

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This "where is? Omission of one sort or another is, of course, a defining feature of all anthologies: someone is always going to be left out and someone else is going to be indignant about it.

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But although Yau plays the minority card rather too piously, and although his critique of Pound's representation of China largely ignores the context in which Cathay was actually produced and disseminated, Yau is on to something important: namely, the peculiar belatedness of Weinberger's narrative. It covered the years The preface paid homage to Pound and Williams, but certainly didn't include their work.

In Weinberger's anthology, on the other hand, the "new" in Allen's sense includes exactly four of the thirty-five poets: Sobin, Howe, Coolidge, and Palmer. The book begins with four Modernist masters Pound, Williams, H. That leaves seven poets who are what we might call Donald Allen should-have-beens, in that they were excluded from the second gathering largely by fluke, belonging by rights to the congeries already represented. Innovators and outsiders?

There is nothing wrong with this selection as such, given that Weinberger originally published it in Spanish for Mexican and Latin American consumption.


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On the contrary, it is wonderful that an anthology of such high calibre and evidently largely unknown in Spanish work will be read by a new Latin American audience. For the U. Why, to begin with, the belatedness and buttressing, the need to begin an anthology of contemporary poetry with the work of the great Modernists? And a related problem: by what criteria are the lesser poets in Weinberger's anthology--say, Nathaniel Tarn and Ronald Johnson-- superior to the mainstream--Berryman, Lowell, Jarrell, Bishop-- whom Weinberger dismisses as purveyors of the "American image of the poet as an overgrown disturbed child prodigy" EW ?

True, Weinberger refers to the "open-ended rather than closed forms" of his "innovators" and talks of their "simultaneity" and "musicality" But when he concludes that "in the end, what united these poets was, in opposition to the prevailing canon, Pound's exhortation to 'Make it new,'" EW , he is applying the very standard Donald Allen used thirty-five years earlier. When a critic as sophisticated as Eliot Weinberger falls into this trap--and we will witness the same phenomenon again and again in the anthologies of our decade-- there must be a valid reason.

My own sense is that we are suffering, in the poetically rich and perhaps excessively diverse s, from what I should like to call the malaise of the mid-century. When Donald Allen or, for that matter, his conservative antagonists produced their anthologies in , there was little doubt as to the position of the Great Modernist Precursors. True, one could quarrel as to the relative merits of Robert Frost or of e. But there has never been this agreement about the midcentury. We are now as far away from Charles Olson as Donald Allen was from Williams and Pound, and yet Olson's status as "major poet" is hotly contested.

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Critics who have no quarrel over Pound or Williams, cannot agree on the hypothetical place of John Berryman or Elizabeth Bishop in the canon. And what about Allen Ginsberg? A great poet whose million dollar archive was well worth the purchase made by Stanford University?

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The author, in John Hollander's view, of that "execrable little book" Howl? Or a poet whose importance rests on the earlier work, now turned rock musician? Those on both sides of these arguments continue to be defensive, even though they are battling, not over who has "made it New" but over the always-already tried and true and commodified. Hence the difficulty of waging the good fight, as did les jeunes of , for a new new poetry.

And here I turn to the big anthologies of , Hoover's and Messerli's. Hoover's Norton anthology is meant to complement and be used in tandem with , the "regular' or "mainstream" Norton; it even has a teachers' manual. Messerli's aim is to put between two covers the very best of the movement to which he himself belongs, Language Poetry, even as he wants to buttress and contextualize that poetry by relating it to its sources and analogues. Postmodern American Poetry has pages and poets, From the Other Side of the Century includes somewhat fewer poets 84 but runs to pages, which means that its selections are much more comprehensive than what we usually find in anthologies.

Is there, then, really so much more important poetry being written in America than there was in Donald Allen's day when a modest pages could cover thirty-eight New American Poets? Hoover's anthology covers forty years; it begins with Charles Olson and John Cage, and its first three-hundred pages are devoted to poetry familiar from the Allen anthology; Messerli's span is ten years shorter but here approximately pages one-third of the book are given over to Donald Allen poets.