(poets on poetry) notley, alice-coming after _ essays on poetry-university of michigan press (2005)

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    Coming After

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    POETS ON POETRY 

    David Lehman, General Editor

    Donald Hall, Founding Editor

    New titles 

     John Ashbery, Selected Prose 

     Annie Finch, The Body of Poetry 

    Dana Gioia, Barrier of a Common Language 

    Paul Hoover, Fables of Representation 

    Philip Larkin, Further Requirements 

     Alice Notley, Coming After 

     William Stafford, The Answers Are Inside the Mountains  Richard Tillinghast, Poetry and What Is Real 

    Recently published 

    Thomas M. Disch, The Castle of Perseverance 

    Mark Jarman, Body and Soul 

    Philip Levine, So Ask 

    David Mura, Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, and Mr. Moto 

    Karl Shapiro, Essay on Rime  Charles Simic, The Metaphysician in the Dark 

    Stephen Yenser, A Boundless Field 

    Also available are collections by 

     A. R. Ammons, Robert Bly, Philip Booth, Marianne Boruch,

    Hayden Carruth, Amy Clampitt, Douglas Crase, Robert Creeley,

    Donald Davie, Tess Gallagher, Linda Gregerson, Allen Grossman,

    Thom Gunn, Rachel Hadas, John Haines, Donald Hall, Joy Harjo, Robert Hayden, Edward Hirsch, Daniel Hoffman, Jonathan Holden,

     John Hollander, Andrew Hudgins, Josephine Jacobsen, Galway Kinnell,

    Mary Kinzie, Kenneth Koch, John Koethe, Yusef Komunyakaa,

    Maxine Kumin, Martin Lammon (editor), Philip Larkin,

    David Lehman, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, John Logan, William Logan,

     William Matthews, William Meredith, Jane Miller, Carol Muske,

    Geoffrey O’Brien, Gregory Orr, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Ron Padgett,

    Marge Piercy, Anne Sexton, Charles Simic, William Stafford,  Anne Stevenson, May Swenson, James Tate, Richard Tillinghast,

    C. K. Williams, Alan Williamson, Charles Wright, and James Wright 

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    Alice Notley 

    Coming After

    essays on poetry

    THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN PRESS

    Ann Arbor 

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    Copyright © by the University of Michigan 2005  All rights reserved

    Published in the United States of America by  The University of Michigan Press

    Manufactured in the United States of America  Printed on acid-free paper

    2008 2007 2006 2005 4 3 2 1

    No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise,

     without the written permission of the publisher.

    A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Notley, Alice, 1945– Coming after : essays on poetry / Alice Notley.

    p. cm. — (Poets on poetry) ISBN 0-472-09859-4 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 0-472-06859-8

    (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. American poetry—20th century—History and criticism.

    2. English poetry—20th century—History and criticism. 3. Poetry—Authorship. 4. Poetry. I. Title. II. Series. PS325.N68 2005 811'.509—dc22

    2004025900

    ISBN13 978-0-472-09859-0 (cloth)

    ISBN13 978-0-472-06859-3 (paper)

    ISBN13 978-0-472-02624-1 (electronic)

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    Preface

    These essays, reviews, talks were written during a ten-year period

    and, though often commissioned, to one of three purposes: to

    discuss a poet whose work hadn’t been discussed much; to take

    up topics which seemed neglected or badly discussed; to explain  what I was up to, since no one else seemed to be writing about  me (a circumstance that is probably changing). I wanted to be

    clear, and not consciously innovative in language: I had done

    that before in discussing poetry and probably will do so again;

    but I didn’t want to make, as much as to serve. However, I did

     want to invent a viewpoint in each instance according to what was

    required, that is, to see what was there without a predetermined

    terminology or logic getting in the way. Any contemporary  poem or poet deserves to be approached without preconcep-

    tion. If it’s of now, who knows what it is?

    I was combating a climate of what I thought to be exactly 

    preconception and jargon, the ways one is taught to read in

    school, the inBuence of critics and philosophers and writers

    one is told are great. Second-generation New York School Ag- ures, and certain poets connected to them through friendship,

    interests, publication outlets, were neglected, partly because they tended to disdain criticism as a form, thereby not creating

    a way of talking about their work (as others were doing); partly 

    because they could seem anti-intellectual (as if a poet weren’t 

    by deAnition an intellectual); partly because their work was often humorous, ergo seemed “light”; partly because they tended

    to practice unsanctioned lifestyles; sometimes simply because

    they were humble or distracted, “non-careerist,” which is not the

    same as not professional. I discovered that, having kept in touch with the work of these

    poets over the course of thirty years, I could Anally see what each

    had been, and was still, doing. I was impressed by how different 

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    poets’ work an obsession with voice, sound, and measure, with

    political and spiritual stance often as a uniAed quality, and with

    the relation between the poetry and the poet’s life or life-stance. In the essay “Steve,” about Steve Carey, I was unable to separate

    his life and work at all and ended up making a dialogue of his biography and his poems. These obsessions seem to me to be

    both mine and the poets’, though I don’t think they would dis-

    cuss their work in the way I have.

    It is important that all of the poets dealt with at length live or

    lived in cities; if they moved to “the country” they did so after their voices had become intricately urbanized. I am that sort of 

    poet too, and in that way I am always of the New York School

    and its friends: the Beats, Black Mountain, etc., the Language Poets, the Black Arts and Umbra poets, the Nuyoricans, the new-

     younger-poets-in-the-several-cities movement without a name. I

    love the city voice and hate what the city has become and how  the world has become a city. Many of the poets discussed ask

    questions of the present becoming future, ask in their different 

     ways: Where exactly is the world taking our voices and our lives?

    How can my poetry deal with the injustice and ugliness of the

    present? These questions loom behind the work of O’Hara, the “earlier” poet I discuss, but intensify in the work of Waldman, Thomas, Oliver, and myself. The title of the book, Coming After,

    refers to being “second-generation,” and “postmodern,” but it 

    also refers to coming after an irrevocable point of damage.

    Finally, I haven’t included earlier pieces on Edwin Denby,

    Kenneth Koch and Tom Clark, Philip Whalen, and William Car-

    los Williams, because the style of that period of mine clashes too

    much with the style in this book. There is also the matter of all the people and books and topics I could have written about but 

    didn’t: but that fact makes a personal future.

    vii 

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    Contents

    Poets

    O’Hara in the Nineties 3

     Joanne Kyger’s Poetry 15 Ron Padgett’s Visual Imagination 27

    Hollo’s Corvus  41

    Elmslie’s Routine Disruptions  52

    Eileen Myles in Performance 57

    A Certain Slant of Sunlight  67

    Iovis Omnia Plena  83

    Lorenzo Thomas: A Private Public Space 95 Douglas Oliver’s New York Poem 108

    Steve 117

    Topics

     American Poetic Music at the Moment 131

     Voice 147

    Thinking and Poetry 158  Women and Poetry 167

    The “Feminine” Epic 171

     Acknowledgments 181

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