History, the Aughts, and the Avant-Garde Pt. 3

As has been said, the Internet age in the Aughts created a context in which more daily excitement could be derived from serious literature; even as the major Aughts players I have in mind set a greater store in developing a keen and incisive historical awareness with which to grace their productions. As we constructed new narrative voices to gird texts like Map of the Hydrogen World, Apparition Poems, and even small gems like Brooklyn Copeland’s Borrowed House, playing around, sometimes gingerly and sometimes assertively, with various forms and manners of narrativity, a sense of honestly, painstakingly earned verticality grew around us, lighting up the Aughts years, both then and in retrospect (for me, at least), with a memorable glow. As is invariably the case, many of the names which recurred at regular intervals in the Aughts, poets and critics who fought alongside of us in the proverbial trenches, will have to be forgotten— as will brief crazes like the Issue 1 incident in 2008, and the regular influxes of new web and print journals which failed to distinguish themselves over a long period of time. The Argotist Online blurb for my e-book “Disturb the Universe” (I am counting ’10, strategically, as an Aughts year, and a year of culminations) posits, implicitly, the Aughts as an era of “transition and turmoil”— and the transition to a new technological and aesthetic century, which sought to create a palimpsest over the rigidly confined formalism (against thematic awareness outside critiques of language itself) of the twentieth century’s avant-garde elite, was a fortuitous one, as new outlets readily appeared to advance new agendas. Seen from later in the century and centuries to come, it may even appear to be somewhat charmed— a magical confluence of personalities and energies which determined much of what followed it in twenty-first century poetry. As we know, the Aughts of any given century are often determinative.

To bring these conjectures even closer to home— in 2014, the Teens appear to be very much up for grabs. I have confidence that the Aughts seeds will ripen and bear fruit in due time— but that is the work, always, of decades and centuries. In the short term, it will be interesting to watch how the Teens choose to configure themselves around the Aughts. Here and there, we’ve seen the arrival of new, potentially major, venues— such as the Huffington Post and the Boston Review, who have gone out of their way to ignore our innovations and turn the clock back to the comparative thoughtlessness and adolescent clannishness of much of the late twentieth century. Luckily for the Aughts crowd and our body of work, these venues seem to espouse no coherent, cohesive aesthetic agenda. The craze for lists on these sites (Buzzfeed and Alternet, also), as though serious literature should be reduced to a People Magazine or Rolling Stone-level context, has not (thankfully) coalesced into enough of a zeitgeist force to render them indicative of what the Teens may bring, or be. Conceptual Poetry, another turn-back-the-clock gambit, is similarly contrived and unconvincing, a failed palimpsest over genuine theoretical rigor; and the likes of Kenneth Goldsmith, for many of us, a failed avatar. Every decent century for the higher arts yet has off decades— whether this is true or nor for the Teens, in ’14, remains to be seen. This decade’s machinations aside, the Aughts seeds, their historical interest, are strong and potent and, whether the growth out of our early soil is visible or invisible, the truth remains that what is planted has more or less guaranteed a fruitful century for those who lament the aesthetic aridity and inhumanity of the one which came before, and set the stage for us.


Post a Comment

<< Home