Back in March I posted an excerpt from an interview with Dean Young in which he suggested that it's now all but impossible for any sort of meaningful (or fruitful) avant-garde to exist today. And yet this feeling is nothing new. Guess who wrote the following, and when?:
"Previously, vanguard artists never had to face the problems of integration into the art of their time because this usually happened at the end of a long career when the direction their art would take had long been fixed. When it took place earlier it could be dealt with by an explosition of bad temper, as in the possibly apocryhal story about Schonberg: when someone finally learned to play his violin concerto he stormed out of the concert hall, vowing to write another one that nobody would be able to play.
Today the avant-garde has come full circle--the artist who wants to experiment is again faced with what seems like a dead end, except that instead of creating in a vacuum he is now at the center of a cheering mob."
The answer is Ashbery. In 1968!
I'd like to raise the possibility that so much bland, over-determined poetry gets written today out of a fear of naivite. In the aftermath of the marriage between poetry and literary theory in the 70's and 80's, a marriage that's been playing out ever since, there's a palpable fear of NOT aspiring toward an intellectual poetry.
Or put it this way--a sculptor doesn't need to be a geologist in order to see the shape in the stone. Sensibility and intuition have a way of carrying us pretty damn far. Time for the pendulum to swing the other way.
More on this in future posts.