Defining key aspects of the modern — can’t be done simply. But why not try? Here’s one. The modern poem isn’t about expression or expressiveness, something the poet has urgently wanted to say. It’s primarily neither topical nor personal in the accepted 20th-century sense of the person who has things “inside” that must be said, written, conveyed. The poem isn’t telling you you should or must know something. It doesn't cover or fill a gap, a need, a want. The poem is merely (oh that huge “merely” — but I don’t mean it trivially) a means of keeping a reader from going from it, a detention, a planning to stay, and then — in it — is a remnant of the poet, all we know of him or her at that moment, then (now, the time of coming upon the words) and here (in the poem itself, making an inside that's nowhere else but where it is).
To the extent that the above definition is apt and useful, then the modern verse mode derives largely from Emily Dickinson, who in more than half her poems makes the point I've made above the matter of the poem.
And Cid Corman, not otherwise deemed Dickinsonian, is surely getting at this in this poem:
It isnt for want of something to say— something to tell you—
something you should know— but to detain you-- keep you from going—
feeling myself here as long as you are— as long as you are.
Jackson Mac Low made available several sections of his Stein series on his EPC page. I sometimes introduce my students to this series by reading and discussing with them number 7, titled “Very Pleasant Soiling.” Mac Low’s notes, as usual, describe the process by which this (and other) pieces in the series were composed:
Martin Rowson’s The Waste Land “Seen” was published in 1999 — a modernist hermeneutic detective story (hard-boiled) in comix form. Now Rowson and Michael Barsanti are bringing it back as an iPad app, which is to say, more simply, an e-version for easy tablet reading. “It takes a lot of detective work to decipher modernist literature. Trying to figure how grail legends, the Upanishads, and vegetation myths all link up has left scholars chasing their tails for nearly a century, and has left us ordinary palookas in the dust. Lucky for us we have private eye Chris Marlowe, cartoonist Martin Rowson, and scholar Michael Barsanti to help shake out some of the clues and make some hasty repairs to a heap of otherwise broken images.” There's more here and also, naturally, a link to iTunes where you can download the app. The image above gives you a sense of where I am in the “story” as I write this: section II, “A Game of Chess.” “I lost Idaho Ez,” it begins, “so I decided to look up the only other person I knew in these parts. I remembered the first time we'd met. She'd looked like a million dollars....”