How poetry came to matter again



The poetry world would hardly seem a likely place for a “race row,” the phrase The Guardian applied in 2011 to a blunt exchange of literary verdicts. The celebrated (and white) critic Helen Vendler had disparaged the celebrated (and black) poet Rita Dove’s selections for the new Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Dove, Vendler wrote, had favored “multicultural inclusiveness” over quality. She’d tried to “shift the balance” by choosing too many minority poets at the expense of better (and better-known) writers. The poems were “mostly short” and “of rather restricted vocabulary,” the presiding keeper of the 20th-century canon judged. Over at the Boston Reviewthe (also white) critic Marjorie Perloff, the doyenne of American avant-garde poetics, weighed in too. She lamented what she saw as new poets’ reliance on a formulaic kind of lyric already stale by the 1960s and ’70s—a personal memory dressed up with “poeticity,” building to “a profound thought or small epiphany.” Her example: a poem by the acclaimed (also black) poet Natasha Trethewey about her mother’s painful hair-straightening routine.T

4 thoughts on “How poetry came to matter again

  1. Took me forever to read all those articles, and I know most of the poets mentioned. If the new generation of poets are adding the “I” back into their poems, good for them. There will always be people who feel like only a few voices matter, and the rest are worthless. I can’t agree with that sentiment, because each of us is unique. Each voice matters. Every person’s story is different. You can choose who to read or listen to, but you can’t tell people they don’t matter or their experience isn’t important. The inclusion of more people and more diverse stories has energized the audience. I’m happy to read them. And to join them.

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    1. I am so glad to hear from you Brenda.It is the right of everyone to write and so many people are afraid to even try.Yet when I read an article about dumbing down and how children are no longer taught ancient history and how our culture developed I feel the truth of that as well.But in time the ones who wrote really goof works will still be read and I believe even if your writing is not top notch that it is beneficial to attempt to write poems as it is to draw.Both make us perceive the world better.And I believe perception is perhaps the vital force which we base our actions on.If we don’t see then we don’t know or act.I am pleased that you read all of that as I didn’t think anyone would.I am sorry I’ve not been visiting your blog.I hope you will forgive me.Katherine

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