the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: hoagland on poetry

Posted by rigorousm on June 2, 2011

A lot of young poets these days are being educated into a state of hysterical aesthetic complexity. I saw poetry worksheets from the University of Iowa this year and what I saw was a widespread terror of not being smart, and a compensating effort to intimidate the reader. It scared me.

The fragment, a device so common in our poetry now, seems quite limited to me as a poetic instrument. Yes, it simulatres spiritual urgency (breathless, as in Graham), or spiritual solemnity (as in Pinsky’s litanies), and it can be mildly interesting as a descriptive technique (notational/strobe). But the grammatical fragment can’t emobdy the fluctuations of an interesting, continuous, changeable sensibility– as the full, generous, complex, acrobatic, mutating sentence can.

Yes, I know that the fragment is the best representation of our modern experience of distraction and fracture. I’m all fucked up too. But that doesn’t make it good poetry. The shattered glass is an eloquent emblem for our time, but it does not hold water and I am thirsty.

— Tony Hoagland, “Verifiability,” A Call for a Response: Symposium on Subjectivity and Style, Fence F/W 2000-2001 pp 120-121.


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