Monday, October 13, 2008

State of the Union and Poetry Politic Blog: A Blog in 50 Days (Half Way Through)

Check out PoetryPolitic Blog, a blog in support of the recent Wave Books anthology State of the Union, in particular Susan Schultz's recent poem featured there.

I look forward to reading this anthology, even though I have to say that the broadness of the blog's title brings up poetic issues that the more stately--State of the Union--does not. Which is to say, once one begins to engage in a discussion of "political poetry," one makes a choice to suggest that some poetry is "political" and some is not--a point that, in the broader public sphere, almost always favors the non-political (as non-divisive, non-partisan, non-didactic, non-arm-twisting). In the poetry world, "political poetry" so frequently comes to mean poetry that is partisan by way of its thematics or content--and probably 95% of poets see this sort of gesture as self-congratulatory, delimited, or boring. I have made my own arguments regarding "war resistance poetry," peace poetry (stay tuned for that essay), and resistance poetries more generally, partly because I see the employment of the term "political" in such a broad sense feels counter-productive.

Still, reading CA Conrad's poem (and, to an extent, Joseph Lease's "America"), I find myself again enchanted by the idea of a poetry addressed to political leaders and to America more broadly--hearkening back not only to Allen Ginsberg's hilarious parody of a rant, "America," but all the poems that Ginsberg was echoing--not only Whitman and Hughes and McKay and countless others, but also the poems of regular Americans, writing poems and submitting them as poetic editorials to the newspapers of the day, that functioned as letters to the nation.

The cast of poets included suggests that they have chosen many poets and movements who would have been making the above argument over the past few decades, which makes it all the more intriguing:

John Ashbery, Anselm Berrigan, Lucille Clifton, CAConrad, Peter Gizzi, Albert Goldbarth, Terrance Hayes, Fanny Howe, Tao Lin, Eileen Myles, Michael Palmer, Wang Ping, Richard Siken, Juliana Spahr, James Tate, Catherine Wagner, Joe Wenderoth, Dara Wier, Rebecca Wolff, John Yau and many more.

While some of the above, such as Lucille Clifton, CA Conrad, and Juliana Spahr, could be seen as poets directly engaging "the political," others, such as John Ashbery, Peter Gizzi, and Michael Palmer have a more oblique relationship at least to the idea of a "political" (content) poetry; the avant, the language, and the post-avant rubbing elbows with what might be termed the vulgar politicoes (of which I occasionally find membership)--now that's an interesting project.

To Wave Books' credit, proceeds, as they state on their website, "for State of the Union will be donated to Swords to Plowshares, a not-for-profit organization devoted to reducing homelessness and poverty among veterans through advocacy, public education and partnerships with local, state and national entities." That's good people.


Jesus Crisis said...

You've made me want to read this!

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, man, and thanks for your work at the Crisis Library. I can't keep up with your digital productivity! Happy writing,

Joseph Ross said...

Phil - The book is very interesting. I went to a reading/discussion by 4 of the poets at the Folger Shakespeare Library here in Washington, with Terrance Hayes, Eileen Miles, Nick Flynn, and Edwin Torres. It was a powerful reading and their conversation about political poetry was thoughtful. J. Ross

ryan manning said...

units will move