Poetic Lives Online: Links by Brian Spears

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Just one for tonight, and I doubt that the site I’m linking to will even notice the hits we send his way–in fact, there’s a strong possibility that everyone who reads this will have already seen the post I’m referencing–but what the hell. It’s a really good piece, I think.

It’s Ron Silliman musing on the ways the poetry world, as he sees it, can be both binary and more than that. Near the end of his post, he says this:

“The old binary is just that: old & binary. It’s entirely inadequate to describe the scene of today, even as the inertia of that binary continues to drive some of the phenomena & some of the behavior. The old model will prove even less adequate tomorrow. The real question is, or should be, what models better characterize what is going on now, and what will be going on tomorrow?”

When I was an undergrad a dozen or so years ago, what struck me about post-war poetry was how varied it was, how there didn’t seem to be a major school of poetry. Instead, there were the New Critics and the Confessionals and the Beats and so on for a hundred other -isms. Forget about avant-garde or post-avant–that was a universe I didn’t even know existed. What can I say? That was the world of poetry I was introduced to; that was the world I learned.

It didn’t seem binary to me, but then again, I didn’t see the same universe Silliman did–which isn’t to say he was wrong, just like I wasn’t. It’s a matter of perceptions. Silliman saw a bigger field and made connections between groups that it never would have occurred to me to make. That’s the advantage of experience, and the downside as well.

All things considered, I’d rather have Silliman’s expertise and wide knowledge. I’ve got an impossible amount of catching up to do.


Brian Spears is Senior Poetry Editor of The Rumpus and the author of A Witness in Exile (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011). His poem “Upon Reading That Andromeda Will One Day Devour Triangulum and Come For Us Next” was featured in Season 9 of Motion Poems. More from this author →