The Death of a Poetic Revolution Essay

The Death of a Poetic Revolution Essay

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Throughout the late 20th and early 21st century many poets spent their careers attempting to “shift … writing away from the readable,” (McCaffery, 150) and create and avant-garde form of new and innovative poetry. Language poetry was first on this scene, primed and ready to start, according to Andrew Epstein in his essay “Verse Vs. Verse”, an “oppositional movement.” (46) The only problem is, with most avant-garde movements, the interest of the intellectuals soon follows. By creating works that were “self-aware [and] fragmented,” (Epstein, 48) the Language poets were able to keep their art restrained to a “small circle,” (Epstein, 15) of intellectuals. Contemporary poetry then underwent a series of different movements, each adopting new maneuvers. Unfortunately for contemporary poetry, there is a point at which new innovations become difficult and it is rather new adaptations of familiar formulas that become avant-garde. This very regression, the loss of the avant-garde movement can be seen in the poetry of Tao Lin. The re-emergence of lyric in poetry was the death of a poetic revolution.
When language poetry broke on to the poetry scene in the late 1970’s it was introduced by a small group of poets who “shared a passionate devotion to the more avant-garde side of American poetry- to the experimental” (Epstein, 46). This poetry was not intended for the general audience, it was poetry intended as an “art for the happy few” (Epstein, 15) who were willing to engage in conversation with the literature they read. Language poets “demand[ed] a reader who [would] be an active participant rather than a passive consumer.” (Epstein, 47) It was this very opposition to the literary tradition that not only made it works targeted to a select f...


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Works Cited

Abrams, M. H. “Modernism.” A Glossary of Literary Terms. 9th ed. Boston: Wadsworth
Cengage Learning, 2009. 201-04. Print.
Epstein, Andrew. “Verse vs. Verse.” Lingua Franca (2000): 45-54. Print.
Epstein, Joseph. “Who Killed Poetry?” (1988). Print.
Harmon, William, and Hugh Holman. “Lyric.” A Handbook to Literature. 10th ed. 304-
05. Print.
Hejinian, Lyn. “The Rejection of Closure.” The Language of Inquiry. Ed. Lyn Hejinian.
Los Angeles: University of California. 40-58. Print.
Hejinian, Lyn. Writing Is an Aid to Memory. Los Angeles, CA: Sun & Moon, 1996.
Print.
Lin, Tao. Cognitive-behavioral Therapy: Poetry. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publ.,
2008. Print.
McCaffery, Steve. “Language Writing: From Productive to Libidinal Economy.” North
Of Intention: Critical Writings 1973-1986. Ed. Steve McCaffery. New York:
Roof. 143-58. Print.

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