We are pleased to publish Bill Lavender’s response to Jacquilyn Weeks’s review, “Taking the concept of meaning-making by storm,” which we published on June 24, 2011:
There is a lot to argue with in this review. It’s weird how it approaches the real weaknesses of the poem and even analyzes individual points quite succinctly and yet, in the end, embraces the very banality it accuses the poem of. In a review that counts the number of personal pronouns in the text, the final judgement boils down to “I didn’t like Cyclones.”
I met Lewis Warsh at the Berkeley Poetry Conference [in 1965] and will always forever after think we founded Angel Hair within that auspicious moment. Conflation of time triggered by romance adjacent to the glamorous history-making events of the conference seems a reasonable explanation. Perhaps Angel Hair was what we made together in our brief substantive marriage that lasted and had repercussions. And sped us on our way as writers. Aspirations to be a poet were rising, the ante grew higher at Berkeley surrounded by heroic figures of the New American Poetry. Here was a fellow New Yorker, same age, who had also written novels, was resolute, erudite about contemporary poetry. Mutual recognition lit us up. Don’t I know you?
Refuting Critical Bewilderment in Twentieth Century Australian Poetries
Philip Mead’s Networked Language: Culture & History in Australian Poetry is a much needed, dynamic ingression in the tiny field of Australian poetics. Critical writing on poetry in Australia is incredibly scant considering the sizeable publication (and associated activities) of poetry. However, as tiresome as it is to note once more, in spite of its volume and vigour, poetry itself remains marginal to Australian culture.
Practising poets need to read poetics. My own bookshelves house many books of essays on poetry by contemporary North American poets and critics, some European and some from the UK, yet relatively few books on Australian poetics. Strategically, Australian poet-editors use their introductions to infrequent anthologies to gesture towards a poetics. So, Philip Mead is working in a disappointingly small world. In his introduction Mead discusses the dearth of critical writings on poetry and, in fact, of Australian literary theory in general.
“A Fair Field Full of Folk”: OTHER British and Irish Poetry since 1970
The British Isles have long been, self-evidently, crowded, complex, and packed with chaotic overlays of cultures — local, imported or created — which develop and intermix constantly. Langland's fourteenth-century “fair field full of folk” was already an intensely plural society, where elements of Saxon, Norman and Cymric were evident alongside each other, with strong elements of Latinate church culture, and, never far away, mainland European culture jostling alongside the other elements of linguistic mix. Diverse cultures sometimes conflict violently, or sometimes make uneasy alliances, and sometimes, perhaps by chance, give rise to the creation of new forms or achievements. About the only thing which is not possible in such a pluralistic, fragmenting, evolving society is a unitary, closed-system approach to culture, an insistence on a single “great tradition” which can justify any degree of cultural domination. And yet at present the organs of this culture — from opera and literature to government — remain unshakably monolithic and centralised: to look at the central products of this culture is to be reminded just how assertive the “mainstream” has been, and how marginalised its alternatives have seemed at times.
The essay below will serve as the introduction to the Green Integer publication, due out in early 2007, of The PIP Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry in English 2005-2006. I felt that readers of Jacket might be interested in this introduction because of my comments on the current reception by the larger newspapers, awards, and prizes concerning what might be described as innovative or — I think a far better term — exploratory poetic and poetics. Obviously, most of the writers of the kind of poetry with which I am concerned have long ago recognized the absence of discussion and acceptance of their poetry in the venues I describe; but I think it is important to reiterate the increasing hostility of the national media and other self-proclaimed arbiters of contemporary poetry to the wide range of poetic writing today—not only in the US, but throughout the world in English. To me it still remains utterly shocking—particularly because it has been so longstanding — that publications such as The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous other places available for reviews and recognition of poetry remain so narrowly focused in their definitions of poetic expression.