The Fate of Difficulty in the Poetry of Our Time offers original readings of poems composed in this century—poems that are challenging to follow, challenging to understand, challenging to discuss, and challenging to enjoy. Difficult poetry of the past relied on allusion, syntactic complexity, free association, and strange juxtapositions. The new poetry breaks with the old in its stunning variety; its questioning of inherited values, labels, and narratives; its multilingualism; its origin in and production of unnamed affects; and its coherence around critical and social theorists as much as other poets.
The essays in this volume include poets writing on the works of a younger generation (Lyn Hejinian on Paolo Javier, Bob Perelman on Rachel Zolf, Roberto Tejada on Rosa Alcalá), influential writers addressing the work of peers (Ben Lerner on Maggie Nelson, Michael W. Clune on Aaron Kunin), critics making imaginative leaps to encompass challenging work (Brian M. Reed on Sherwin Bitsui, Siobhan Philips on Juliana Spahr), and younger scholars coming to terms with poets who continue to govern new poetic experimentation (Joseph Jeon on Myung Mi Kim, Lytle Shaw on Lisa Robertson).
In pairings that are both intuitive (Marjorie Perloff on Craig Dworkin) and unexpected (Langdon Hammer on Srikanth Reddy), The Fate of Difficulty in the Poetry of Our Time illuminates the myriad pathways and strategies for exploring difficult poetry of the present.
"Objectivist" writers, conjoined through a variety of personal, ideological, and literary-historical links, have, from the late 1920s to the present, attracted emulation and suspicion. Representing a nonsymbolist, postimagist poetics and characterized by a historical, realist, antimythological worldview, Objectivists have retained their outsider status. Despite such status, however, the formal, intellectual, ideological, and ethical concerns of the Objectivist nexus have increasingly influenced poetry and poetics in the United States.
Thus, argue editors Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermain, the time has come for an anthology that unites essential works on Objectivist practices and presents Objectivist writing as an enlargement of the possibilities of poetry rather than as a determinable and definable literary movement. The authors' collective aim is to bring attention to this group of poets and to exemplify and specify cultural readings for poetic texts--readings alert to the material world, politics, society, and history, and readings concerned with the production, dissemination, and reception of poetic texts.
The contributors consider Basil Bunting, Lorine Niedecker, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, and Louis Zukofsky within both their historical milieu and our own. The essays insist on poetry as a mode of thought; analyze and evaluate Objectivist politics; focus on the ethical, spiritual, and religious issues raised by certain Objectivist affiliations with Judaism; and explore the dissemination of poetic texts and the vagaries of Objectivist reception. Running throughout the book are two related threads: Objectivist writing as generally a practice aware of its own historical and social contingency and Objectivist writing as a site of complexity, contestation, interrogation, and disagreement.