Once Again

Wind Chime in Snow

Pines bow with weight

of snow

once again

I am nearly finished working my way through ModPo, the Coursera class taught by Al Filreis at the University of Pennsylvania.  I now understand the dashes in Emily Dickinson’s poems and see Rae Armantrout (b. 1947)as Emily’s descendant.   I recognize the restless modernism in William Carlos Williams and appreciate what an influence Gertrude Stein had on subsequent poets, especially John Asbery.

There is a long middle section of ModPo that takes into account anti-modernists who thought more traditional forms could better express their social justice concerns.  Then the post war years move from formalism to the explosion of The Beats.

I enjoyed reading Allen Ginsberg’s Howl so much that I also watched the film from 2011 with James Franco as Ginsberg.  The movie is taken completely from the poem, court transcripts and a taped interview with Ginsberg.  Animation fills some of the time when Ginsberg is reading and is not as successful as the courtroom reenactment or Franco acting out the interview or reading Howl.

Studying poets of the New York School taught me the difference between non-narrative and anti-narrative styles of poetry as well as the ambiguous use of pronouns and non-sequitur imagery.

Finally, Chapter 9, recent trends in three parts.  First, Language Poets, who eschewed sequential writing and wrote paratactic sentences, sentences which, when used together have little or no relationship.  The form fits the discontinuity and disruption that is their subject matter.  Language Poets are also among the most difficult to derive meaning from for me.

Then, the Chance poets who wrote according to a pre-defined procedure.  Here, we can see the divergence into Post-Modernism.  The previous “Moderns” wanted to “make it new.”  These post-modernists say there is nothing new, so you may as well use a procedure or just use the language that is all around you.

This leads, finally, to the Conceptual poets who reject creativity and expropriate language or use found language or borrow it and, ironically, some of this seems quite creative to me.

It’s been a fabulous learning experience and Coursera just announced that ModPo will be repeated in the fall of 2013, so if you want to sign up – it’s free, remember – just go to www.coursera.org and look for Modern and Contemporary Poetry.


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