By Daniel Matthew McGuiness
Argues that if poems are to subject in American tradition, they need to be learn instead of theorized over.
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Extra resources for Holding Patterns: Temporary Poetics in Contemporary Poetry
Things in crowds, ﬁrst, starlings, marble slabs, people, all trying to be a part of the group and to differentiate themselves from the group. Negative capability. Fame and its cost. The poem and its risk. Then losses and gains, or maybe losses only? Their inevitability. What defense? Immobility? Exaggeration? Is a defense necessary against the inevitable? Or desirable? The bullfrog who sings will be caught. The person who inscribes her name on a pond in letters that big will pay for it. So don’t sing?
1 Given: a tradition of scholarship which cannot leave off categorizing, deﬁning, and summing up, a tradition most trace back especially to that philosopher, the father of modern literary criticism, best known (with his Kantian progeny) for his a priori categories. In order to understand the speciﬁc nature of literary structures it is necessary to have some knowledge of what is being structured. The architect must know the potentialities of bricks, mortar, steel, and wood. This supposes that a writer knows something about language, about meanings, about dialect, about his medium, about actions, about emotions, and about people, before he can structure them.
The word itself happens ten times in the poem. This is not perverse unmeaning. 3 After everyone has had a say, the poet says she is still learning what to say. All of these are right. Or all of them are wrong. Or almost: The appearance of signiﬁcant narrative backdrop. The appearance of oracular truth. The appearance of symbology and identiﬁable mythology. The appearance, even, of prosodic orthodoxy. All these appearances fade with the last line—which is written in iambic pentameter. The poem that has stolen these words from my mouth may not be this poem.