Speaking (not just) for yourself
It seemed for a long time poets should only write from their point of view. Otherwise, you run the risk of some kind of liberal-political-multicultural offense. Because in speaking for the Other, you risked appearing to oppress the Other. The result was a kind of poetic narcissism. This is a broad outline that surely over reaches in trying to explain what poets have felt over two decades. But its merits are worth considering, as I did in my conversation with poet Jennifer Moxley, author of the new volume Clampdown. Here’s a snip.
Walt Whitman was large, contained multitudes and contradicted himself. By the 1960s, few American poets did what he did. The universal subject (“I”) was considered a vestige of an old imperial power structure, so Whitman’s “I” was no longer democratic and egalitarian but instead a symbol of white dominance in an oppressive culture. Perhaps the only redemption for Whitman came from new evidence suggesting he was gay.
Too simple? Sure, but that’s more or less what happened, says poet Jennifer Moxley.
You had to write from your particular social marker and not beyond that,” says the University of Maine English professor in a phone interview. “The 1960s saw poetry emerge from identity politics and from politics put into lifestyle choices.”
She now specializes in those social markers, teaching classes in gay and lesbian literature, feminist literary theory and women’s studies. She’s found her own way in volumes of poetry like her latest, Clampdown. In it, one can sense the poet pushing back against a kind of sealed off and self-referential thinking.
“Life is untenable without a universal subject,” says Moxley. “At some point, we fracture into shards of self-interest. There’s no reason I should write and read about only things related to me — a white woman from California. You want to grow and change and take risks. Otherwise, your life is the only life. That’s not good. It should be a political thing.”
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog