Poetic Giants Caught In The Web
If You Malign the High-Modernists
Position of "Obscurity" Nowadays,
You're Just a Lazy Fuck!
By Carlo Parcelli
Post-Modernism's Edgy Contentment:
Check it out. The pasty-skinned, cheese sniffing, High Modernist poet, T.S. Eliot, writes in his poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":
Recently, a post-modernist poet eager to quit all this High Modernist world-angst claptrap, Hamlet or no, wrote:
Now, that's a helluva lot more pleasant & titillating a thought than Eliot's "Prelude" to a bad trip to Red Lobster. We deftly move from enervated old Eliot's raggedy-ass claws to Jennifer Lopez's remarkably sensuous upper gams. The cold sea bottom is forgotten in the warm, image of the jeans fresh from the dryer "wrapped" around the voluptuous Ms. Lopez. T.S., why don't you just scuttle the fuck on out of here.
The world brightens around the post-modernist resurrection of the image into something of ease, both pleasant and desirable. Yet, ironically, all of this tactile joy, comfort and impressionable emotion got its start in the most unlikely of places---suicide. 1
Robert Lowell by, obsessively, bringing all of his friends into the circle of his misery, created verse as we largely know it today through major publishing houses, MFA programs, writer's workshops, classrooms, grants and awards. However, Lowell was a sick sonofabitch and his poetry reeks of the suffering bastard who wears out everyone else in his impromptu reality TV workshop. Since Lowell many other would-be poets have tried to become crazy bastards and sick sonsofabitch, but few have succeeded---poetically. In an ironic twist, the genre, frightened by its own paradoxes, is now content to be a domesticated heifer that shuns anyone who smacks of pathology no matter how talented. However, the pathology of domestication is little scrutinized.
How did that come about? Given the product, who cares. Suffice it to say that Lowell to a large extent gave people something to write about that they felt they wouldn't have to do much work to know about--- themselves.
Poetic Giants Caught In The Web Vs. 40 Millimeters and a Mole: Subsistence Poetry At Knopf ---Land Grant/Navel Based Contemporary Poetry And The Business Tax Write-Off
There was always a small group of poets off somewhere who made nuisances of themselves by insisting that poets ought to know something about topics and taxonomies that were driving the world like economics, anthropology, political history, science and technology. Occasionally, the more domestic breed of poet would write a little ditty or 10 line paean to some discipline that was wholly uninterested in the poet's effort, but ambitious High-Modernist poetic critiques were either ignored or ridiculed. This had its parallel in 17th, 18th and early 19th century British poetry when swarms of minor and now forgotten poets wrote kiss ass ditties to Newton, Descartes, and Huygens and the like, while their critics like Blake, Wordsworth, and Shelley were ridiculed but are not only not forgotten but have had their alarums proven correct.
But who the fuck cares about the ecological rantings of a Blake or Wordsworth now? And their gloomy progeny couldn't possibly have anything to contribute. Who gives a fuck about being prophetic about the ecological future of the planet when you can win Pulitzers writing about nothing in particular and with the passion of a banana squash. 2
The most marvelous thing about the domestic, consumer driven poem is that the expectations for it vis-a-vis the culture at large are so low that the poet can reserve all of his or her energy and ambition for publishing, schmoozing, and winning awards. Poetry of such a ubiquitous nature is bound to be subjective in the extreme, so politicking really the fuck counts. Who's gonna know who's the better poet unless it's going to be socially and professionally awkward to not pick them? If you've got to judge a contest, no sweat. What's been vetted for the judges already has all the risk removed.If You Know, You Know You Wear The Masks Of Tragedy And Humor:
The other day a list moderator on one of the minor poetry sites3 sent along this message: "Poets and Scientists: Some Experiments" by Janet Phillips. In the appended article Phillips describes how some poets and scientists were exchanging wampum from their respective disciplines. Poets got "new material, insights, [&] vocabulary" from the scientists while scientists got, according to paleontologist Richard Fortey, "new connections beyond the world of science." Merry Fuckin' Christmas. In reality, historically, the poets got a few trinkets and the scientists got Manhattan Island which they eventually retooled as The Manhattan Project.
By and large, the poets unlike the Indians deserved their fate. In fact, by comparison the Indian's fate might read "and they turned those bolts of cloth and buttons into what we know today as Beneton."
Peter Forbes illustrates the heist of the poets in a brief discussion of Lucretius's poem, De Rerum Natura: "There was no real science then, only speculation. But Lucretius was percipient enough to pick the only winner among the rival hypotheses: the atomic theory."
But who really got to pick the winner? Of course, Forbes and the scientific community did, otherwise in all other respects, De Rerum would remain the quaint, mostly ignored, poetic artifact that it is to the scientific mind. Lucretius can take the ferry to the big island because his politics is currently correct. But Goethe and his Die Fabenlehre are fucked and double-fucked because he took on Sir Isaac Newton, whom we all now know was relevant only for certain gross magnitudes but revered none the less.
To bring matters to a more High Modernist boil, an anthology of the life of environmental scientist, Rachel Carson, edited by John Burnside and Maurice Riordan and sited by Phillips (Petroleum?) is bought and paid for by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Now the anthology may be harmless drivel, but the sponsor and its namesake certainly are not. Calouste Gulbenkian aka "Mr. Five Percent" was a notorious Turkish broker who brokered Middle Eastern oil rights to Western Corporate powers.
The 'boundaries' he sketched took into consideration the geological potential for oil but utterly ignored the religious and ethnic backgrounds of the people living on them. The 'sale' of Manhattan island looks like a square deal by comparison. The indigene, aside from a few western designated elites, were completely left out of the equation as they often are today.
To top the tank off, oil and petroleum production is slated numero uno by Rachel Carson for environmental condemnation. She absolutely refused to accept money from the oil industry. But the poet whores have no problem either out of ignorance or ambition or most likely both.
Carson despised Gulbenkian and his ilk. So what does the Gulbenkian Foundation do? It launches a decades long public relations campaign to associate its name and poisons with Carson's work and reputation while hundreds of stooges, poets included, fall into place for a little lucre and spotlight.
You expect this kind of fundamental hypocrisy from the scientists and engineers. After all, they've been bred to believe that their objects of study are 'discrete', cut off, independent, from moral and ethical consideration while qua the objects of scientific experimentation.
Further, virtually all of them purchase their Volvos through the Credit Unions of major corporations and the military. There would be no science if the act of mathematical reduction or quantification was found to be what generated this ethical debit of global proportions. Thus, the race toward Hell is headlong and irreversible.4
But poets, especially those of the I-Me-Me-Mine School of Poetics that the Beatles have so eloquently deconstructed? What's that about? Turn down a few bucks, tell the Dana Gioias of the world what a bunch of useless cocksuckers they are, maintain a little integrity, write, eat better than most, and die. Is that so fuckin' tough?
If a poet didn't know this was a minor pact with the devil, why not? Its easy enough to check out where the dough is coming from even if you are one of the middle class majority of poets that don't know squat about, well, much of anything other than your navel and the surrounding 40 millimeters and a mole.
If the poet does know the money is dirty, why compromise your work by associating with the contrived circus that is a public relations ploy engineered by corporate murderers? Poets don't own the island. Science does. The same science that refines the oil. And the same science that wouldn't let a poet near the shore if he presented a cogent argument in rebuttal to the money generating orthodoxy of the sciences.
So why would he compromise his integrity? Because the whole integrity thing has become a big disconnect, not because of what the culture has become, but because of who the poets now are.
Gioia is an extreme example of an institutional whore. But the white middle class that makes up the core of poets, editors, administrators of grants et. al. never had such a pact with integrity. They had a pact with manners and ambition and their phony, formal systems whereby every syllable is required to be insincere.
It doesn't matter how many thousands of witty texts are written about this phenomenon. No one feels the need to change it. No one thinks anything would be gained by reintroducing integrity. Of course, they don't. They are from the class of phonies. As time passes, it quite rightly appears that only middle class white phonies write poetry for other middle class white phonies. Scientists simply have to focus on their specialization and ignore the spasms of the whole. Likewise, poets only have to chronicle their body parts in relation to their parochial environment and perhaps be one of the last generations to fill a franchise of a coffee chain with like-minded daydreaming.
It's ironic that the 20th Century Poster Boy Poet-Chump To Power, Ezra Pound, never got past being a figurative whore, whereas liberal, middle class poets make money pacts with murderous forces that by their means of exchange go beyond the figurative. Of course, the enormously talented Pound demanded a large historical canvas and got more than he bargained for. What's Gerald Stern's excuse?
But the sciences and the industrial oligarchy that they prop up, don't have to worry about the poets creating any revolutionary system to counter technologies network because the poets, like virtually all of western mankind, are 'scientific positivists' and therefore for sale. Communist and capitalist come together under the rubric of 'scientific positivism'. Lenin was a scientific positivist as was Harry Truman. Britney Spears, Norbert Weiner, Chuck Berry, Madeline Albright, Al Franken & Bill O'Reilly, Barry Bonds, Roy Cohn, Andre Codrescu, Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy, Toby Keith, conscious of the fact or not, are or were all 'scientific positivists.'
So a poet doesn't 'get over' in such a situation. Just because Gulbenkian and a bunch of investors, engineers, and geologists own the island, and, therefore, your poem is forgotten before it's written, just another face in the camera shot, doesn't mean you are without guilt. The kleptocracy's position, e.g. the need to further pollute, is more difficult to delegitimize for the very reason that your poem means nothing. It's only important to produce numbers and for its meager propaganda value. Institutions like the courts don't care a rat's ass about what's in the poem or what its intent was. Poets can't use the excuse of trying to evoke change from the inside. A cabbage in a hog's stomach is going to nourish the hog and the rest is going to come out shit. The power structure just sees it as another instrument they can count in swiftly exonerating the felonious and murderous. They put it in place in the unlikely event that they'll need it for agitprop.
So the poet who accepts money from a criminal organization like the Gulbenkian Foundation has few ethical options. If he did it out of ignorance, he can determine to get his ass informed and never do it again. If he takes the money knowingly, he can rest assured he will never take that hike with Vergil.High Modernism And The Internet:
The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell:
Mr. Strand Is More 'Obscure' Than Mr. Pound
Imagine Mark Strand down there, Banlon rolled up exposing his belly, reconnoitering his 40 millimeters and a mole, digging ever deeper into his navel for a 10 line poem to add to his next collection. Maybe if he recited one of his old poems he could detect an idea that might just bleed out into a few more lines. He whispers:
Even this late it happens:
But to Mark's mind the work is so tight there is no way to work back in. Then he gets a brainstorm. He types the poem out on the computer, Googles, then chooses a term---the first one, "even." Hmmm. 137,000,000 hits and counting. Perhaps, he should choose a more 'concrete' word. How about "candles." Hmm. 7,730,000 hits. Better but still too much material to wade through to be evocative. One more try. "Dust." 10,800,000 hits. And the first 30 were evocative of everything from the President named after the vacuum to the soil quality so evocative of his and the next President's terms. The poem's easy enough to understand. Lighting the gas stove and putting on the coffee reminds Mark that he's still alive or at least the 'dust' that he's composed of is. Could have very well been any familiar thing and the conceits so shelfworn I didn't even have to mention the Gas Company or Folgers.
OK. "Dust" = "Death". Hmmm. 49,100,000 including The Death Penalty Information Center and Death To Spam. Nothing in Mark's poem prepares him for either topic. Though the word is the same, "death," it is hardly a referent.
Finally, the method seems like just an excuse for writing a poem. The particular words are so general, one gets a fleeting insight into what may constitute the sensation of a quantum fog.Hits Are Where The 'Luminous Detail Is':
The Hypertext Exposed
But take the term "Brest-Litovsk" from Ezra Pound's "Canto LVI". If someone was unfamiliar with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, he could with a couple of mouse clicks get this:
Then the reader could go back into the monologue in the Canto written in a strong East European Yiddish accent with a firmer grasp on what the speech meant. One point of interest is that both Pound through his Jewish personae and Trotsky seemed to share the notion that "socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary. " Even after the Germans forced the Russians to sign, Pound is still concerned that German troops will spread Bolshevism to France and the rest of Western Europe.
Pound clearly wants the reader to be impelled through the poem, but the Internet, like Carroll Terrell's wonderful companions to the Cantos, remove much of the obscurity of the poem through their vertical, hermeneutic dimension that, and ain't this a kicker for the modern mind, depend on historical 'facts' for the argument to progress. This is traditional dialectic ripped right from the time honored use and reference to the Poem's 'Argument.' A dialogue with the reader is expected and now, one would assume that even an idiot can get a grasp on the Cantos, the Maximus Poems, 'A', the Sleeping Lord or Gunslinger. No more excuses. If you criticize the High-Modernists from a position of ignorance nowadays, you're just a lazy fuck.
Of course, as you familiarize yourself with the references in Pound's poem the thing begins to resonate, glow, with the merit of its 'arguments' and the beauty of its architecture, failed as that might be. If you want the ultimate internet/Modernist joy ride you do Joyce's Finnegans Wake, where the resonance and convections of humor can leave you in tears of awe and laughter. Of course, you could get there before the net. But the net's here and the star of High Modernism is rising with it, if simply because you can't use your ignorance as a point of criticism. To do that now really looks stupid. Beyond that Mark Strand and his ubiquitous vocabulary reveals itself as far more obscure than Pound's densest, most personal passages.
Then there's the reverse effect. The thousands of 'luminous details' that stud the Cantos are imprinted on the net. A mere phrase or term can find its way onto a search list and be precise enough to bring a reader to the poem. Then it's just a matter of the ability of the poem to intrigue and before you know it a poem with J. Robert Oppenheimer, T.E. Hulme, the Malatestas, singularity, Gabriel de Mussis, or "immunity from metaphysical surprise" is being opened and taking a place alongside scientific, historical, technical work and subvert with ideas not usually credited by those disciplines. Eat your heart out, Helen Vendler.
And you can't conjure this effect on the cheap. To use a string of specific names of fast food restaurants might sharpen the cultural set pieces associated with poor nutrition, cultural/culinary monotony, unfair labor practices, and what not. But the more the reliance on already absorbed cultural icons, the more the poet is going to have to bring the thematic material to distinguish his or her work from others because such observations are almost a right of passage. To work at a Burger King or McDonald's will enhance one's ability to relate the luminous detail of wielding a mop or pulling the rat out of the deep frier which is part of hands-on experience which Heidegger and the modern novel put so much stock in. But the novel is different from a poem and, in poetry, much novelistic experience has a certain commonplace about it, a lesson trash-compacted thousands upon thousands of times over.
That's why the High Modernist Epic is so conducive to fresh material. And fresh detail can go a long way because the surprise is in the detail itself, such as some of the comments made by important A.I. theorists such as Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy. The first time people encounter the remarks of these two most eminent scientists, they are startled by the crudity of their thought. Yet if you type Minsky's "the brain is a meat machine" or McCarthy's "my thermostat has three beliefs" you go right to the source. You also go right to my poem, Deconstructing the Demiurge: Tale of the Tribe. Add pronouncements by Newell and Simon, Turing, von Neumann as well Moravec and others and through your poem's readers have a new understanding of robotics or some skeptical basis on which to operate. Within minutes they will encounter a robot, or certainly a product made by one.
That's why I wrote IS EVERYDAY LANGUAGE SUFFICIENT TO EMBODY EVERYDAY EXPERIENCE? I noticed on a chat list the eminently reasonable Carroll Cox asked a respondent about the essay, and without reading it (or at least being able to address it) the guy responded "certainly everyday language is sufficient for every day experience and that goes for poetry too." If that's true his remarks tacitly accept the ideological framework of A.I. and robotics where according to the wry Mr. Von Neumann when he, referring to his self-replicating automata designed to replace mankind, instructs that "the rigid member (of all the 9 members) carry no stimuli." And Johnny was no democrat, folks.What Is Publishing And Who Gives A Rat's Ass?
The FlashPoint staff has informally bandied about the above phenomena for years. And we are in a unique position to do so because both Joe Brennan and Carlo Parcelli have spent decades working in the High Modernist mode. Brad Haas, as insightful a critic of High Modernism as you're going to find, has also contributed some interesting insights, especially when it come to tracking trends on the net.
The net has provided poets like Brennan and myself (Parcelli) a venue that, for a variety of reasons, has been denied us for many years in more traditional publishing. One of those reasons has been the 'quality of work' issue. A brief perusal of magazines and chapbooks may support arguments of taste, but not those of quality.
There are two levels on which the harmony of the net and High-Modernist poetry operate. The first involves secondary sourcing, e.g. a critical essay about James Joyce. When I entitled a FP piece The Washington Post vs. The Ineluctable Modality of The Visible, as far as exposure goes, I did myself a big, largely unconscious favor. By borrowing one of Joyce's most noted phrases, I plugged myself into a launching point, the phrase, via Joyce enthusiasts, through search engines like Google. After that it was laissez faire intellectualism, for example, the ability to attract a readership that has become as newly opened as the opportunity to 'publish.' The consequence has been thousands of hits, and one would hope a new, open collar perspective on Joyce.
And it gets literature out of its little academic and domestic funks. My article, Ezra Skinhead: The Cantos As The Anthem Of Fascism, has apparently perplexed a whole segment of world anti-culture that was looking for a sympathetic voice, and finding me has told all of their friends. I'll tell you. It ain't exactly been a Hearts and Minds thing, folks.
But the killer comes from within the High-Modernist perspective. Pound, Olson, Joyce et al established their reputations before the advent of the net and we have seen how the net has benefited them. But which poet seeking to establish himself is most likely to have an advantage on the net? I would have to swing with the High Modernist.
First, hardly any poet out there can avail themselves of the High Modernist style. They don't know enough. And rather than focusing their studies, like Olson said, 'O poet! Get a job.', poets dissipated their energies on observing the mostly dull, banal white middle class world made famous by prescription drugs and suicide and reading/politicking each other's work.
So there's little competition in the High Modernist ranks. Damn, its almost a matter of temperament, a kind of insatiable curiosity and desire to bring every available detail to bear on your argument. If that ain't perfect for the encyclopedic net what is?
Take a useless little on-line magazine like VERT. Issue nine lists the following as contributors:
Brandon Downing, Rodney Koeneke, Leonard Schwartz, Javier Alvarez, Andrew Goldfarb, John Bradley, Laynie Browne, Andrea Baker, Mary Burger, Bob Brueckl, David Harrison Horton, David Bircumshaw, James Meetze, Dana Teen Lomax, Trevor Calvert, Brooke Nelson, Jean Powers, Brooks Johnson, Stephen Ratcliffe, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Sara Veglahn, Eric Baus, Noah Eli Gordon, Ian Randall Wilson, William Allegrezza, Anthony Robinson, Mark Yakich, Dale Smith, Mario de Sa-Carneiro, Ph.D., Carl Thayler, Sarah Rosenthal, Nicole Walker, Jenna Cardinale, Tina Dubois, Joel Chase, Mark DuCharme, Jay Thomas, Jane Sprague, Joshua Edwards, Rebecca Stoddard, Clayton Couch, Steve Gilmartin, Bill Freind, Tim Peterson, Joel Chace, August Highland, Jorge Lucio de Campos, Rodrigo Garcia Lopes ...Interview with Kent Johnson conducted by Rodrigo Garcia Lopes, Editor, Coyote Magazine, Brazil.
Is there anything different in presentation from the old two staple poetry mags? No. It's all personality-driven, with people's reputations largely determining who gets read and who doesn't. It all seems very egalitarian until one remembers the way print publishing used to work. At least then, costs were such that some editorial discretion, no matter how personality-driven, had to be exercised. Now, if you see somebody you want to fuck, you can put 'em in the mag at no extra cost. Anybody who's got even the tiniest reputation for the most specious of reasons, like Kent Johnson, gets the star treatment.
I don't want to single out a little shoe string operation like Vert for criticism. The much more prominent and publicly funded Jacket Magazine is consistently sterile, lifeless, and oddly incestuous. Just more digital chloroform.
The net is much kinder to the High Modernist epic. A poem like my Deconstructing the Demiurge: Tale of The Tribe connects everywhere on the net. Sure, most people are going to be disappointed with the hit, but with an opening line of "500 Years: A gallows with an escapement", people who get or think they get its import have a strong reaction. Of course, since it is the tale of our tribe, it features the invasion of Southeast Asia, the so-called Age of Discovery, Enlightenment science and mathematics and the substitution of the actual with its numerical equivalent, the birth of quantum and the rejection of observation, liberal political theory, nuclear proliferation, Middle East oil and its history, propaganda and public relations etc. etc. etc.
So, once again, if there is perceived merit in the work, a relatively large number of hits and visits transpire. And far more people read the work from infinitely more perspectives while the less involved forms of poetic discourse give off little more heat than their print predecessors.
As bad as the net situation is for the workshop poetry crowd, it's even worse for some of the little puffed up conceits like Language poetry. Not only are the words ubiquitous, but they are contentless, doubly useless as sources of communication through the net. With langpo you've got to know the name of the poet or poem before what passes for a community presents itself. This was a conscious strategy and a shortsighted one.
And in general while the High Modernist Epic thrives on the net, the other poetic forms not only gain no advantage from this new venue, but further isolate themselves from each other. Just as poetry is at its most ubiquitous, it is at its most Balkanized. While High Modernism plugs in as far as the egalitarian and interdisciplinary nature of the net will take it, other forms are squandering their hegemony or conforming to a new oblivion. The workshop school by its sheer ubiquity, a product of its ease of composition, must fall back upon the notion that it was about encouraging anonymity, ambiguity, and amateur status all along. While this may employ thousands of MFA's at meager salary levels, it also relegates everyone's ambition to the same, immense heap of work with lines of discrimination constantly swept clean by grants, prizes, politics, editors, but never by simple, unconnected popular judgment like the net suggests. Because of the subject matter the High Modernist Epic has relatively few readers as, say, your favorite porn site. But overall it is the only poetic form that has been able to take advantage of the technology. To my mind, having other poetics unable to capitalize on the big picture is no great loss.A Mole As A Unit Of Heat:
Sam Hamill's Poets Against The War
Take for example Sam Hamill's Poets Against The War. This is electronic workshop poetry. There is an artificial and mechnical limitation on space as opposed to an organic one on a technology that could accommodate hundreds of epics at little or no cost. Therefore any comprehensive critique is eliminated and Mr. Hamill can feel assured that his little enterprise will not threaten the status quo. In this sense, it is little different than Dana Gioia's NEA project which hopes to corral raw data from the returning fodder from Iraq and Afghanistan and churn it into creamy propaganda. Gioia's project by definition is inhumane and Hamill's allows the status quo to publicly confirm its dedication to freedom of speech, playing off the presence of hundreds of silly and harmless poems. So Hamill's effort is just as much an agency for the kleptocracy as the openly murderous Gioia's is. It's just signing a petition but attaching a claim which demonstrates you don't have enough talent or knowledge to back it up. It's an easy way of pointing out to the authorities, "I'm a poet and I'm not a threat." It can be refried into PR agitprop if necessary. The powers that be welcome these propaganda freebees even more so now that they're on the net, rather than circulating as pamphlets that they have to make some effort to police.
Why single out a Hamill poet? Of the dozens I read, all were way out of their depth, subject-wise. Why? Poor preparation and bad similes. Writing about U.S. foreign policy is more of an honest preparation for writing about 9/11 than writing about dying relatives. Obviously such a false simile would lead to a false sympathy and inevitably to that false sentimentality that's dripped over the 9/11 dead as well as those slaughtered in turn in Afghanistan and Iraq for nefarious reasons.
Laura Bush and Dana Gioia cancelled their little 'let's hijack poetry for a day' fest around Hamill's anthology, but neither Gioia nor Bush were armed and poetry had already put itself in a place where its little day at the White House, well, was its 'little day at the White House.' Oddly, the cancellation was more genuine and politically effective than if there had been a confrontation, because the poets always sound like spongy, overmatched sentimentalists in these rare encounters.
In most contemporary poetry the 'I' obscures everything for the sake of itself, but then, in full aesthetic pique, demands the content, the event of the poem be reconstituted around the obscurantist I.' This has been described as 'the immediacy of the experience' where the eye serves as the tether to which the poem coheres and renders reflection as spontaneous, implying an improvisational intensity that is fundamentally an illusion and a lie.
But since the 'I' is ubiquitous and obscuring, immense demands are made on the content of the poem to make sense, i.e. be accessible. The poem, therefore, can't stray far from bourgeois experience because the target audience won't get it and immediate, uncritical rejection will follow school marmish in its testiness and narrowness . Thus, as far as the internet is concerned, the 'I', the central component, is revealed to be an ad hoc liability, a cultural construct that can bear no critical deconstructing. Utterly retrograde and out of step with the larger culture and militantly protective of its peevish role.
The Internet says, 'So what.' Poetry of the dominant ilk has no place on the Internet except as another form of bulk mailing. It's in the net, not as poetry, but as part of the generalized commonplace of the pseudo-technological experience of simply surfing the net. It's not in the net as poetry but as an ambition or better an advertisement for ambition. And it's never ambition for the poetry, but for the poet. The form of the net is irrelevant to the form of the poetry, and, other as a career enhancing device, the net is irrelevant to the poet.
On the other hand the High Modernist Epic anticipates the Internet not by its juxtaposition, which should always be considered a legitimate possibility with or without the net, but by its hard datum that confirms or illuminates the juxtapositions as well as legitimizes through illustration and re-illustration their place and reasons for placement in the poem; their far higher, precise and pronounced 'accessibility.'
As so many High Modernist Epic Poems are, Pound's Rock Drill Cantos are rescued FOR the lazy obscurantist by the Internet. Without much work, but probably more than the average poet, poetaster or poetry reader is accustomed to, one can take in "Brederode" from the head of Canto 94 and see that Pound is talking about a certain kind of historical figure, one that John Adams is trying to communicate directly to [Benjamin Rush], who embodies Adams himself and a whole other set of 'heroic' (e.g. epic) figures that make thematic appearances in the Cantos. With this repeated reference Pound is reinforcing his notion that history's supporting caste, its artisans, its merchants, its political and economic schemers, play just as important a role as its leading men and women. That that is what constitutes history. Since Pound repeats this contention periodically through the illumination of historical example, the Cantos' 'form' is in part revealed. "No form but in content," as Olson said. Finally Pound imagines himself as one of those practical and pivotal historical figures on the level of John Adams and Hendrick Brederode. Now, that's an 'I' with some goddamn substance.
Therefore to collect all of the examples and to feel the weight Pound gives this interpretation of History one must read all of the Cantos and encounter all of his examples nuanced throughout. With the Internet, there is no excuse. The poem is fully annotated.
The truth about the poetry today that is published by the major houses like Knopf, that infests MFA programs, that is looked upon favorably by grant and prize committees and that has been given the rubric, workshop poetry is in the majority because that's about all those folks can do. It's one thing to have the High Modernist Epic be beyond the intelligence and curiosity level of middle school teachers trying to get the kids to shut up and focus on something, and being shunned by the editors at Knopf or people who present major prizes. To have morons at the top of the institutional structure was a fait accompli before the Internet. Now, it's meaningless.
It turns out that the High Modernist Epic actually began to carve a way for the Internet sensibility long before the Internet was just a twinkle in von Neumann's eye. You can sense it in Finnegans Wake, page 54, where Joyce writes, "Television kills telephony in brothers' broil." In the days when Philo Farnsworth was still tinkering and long before television became commercially viable, Joyce was considering its future. Now, there's a new screen. And if you don't want to work as hard as Joyce or the other High Modernist's there ain't gonna be any place on that screen for you. Or any place at all for that matter.
1 The poet no longer need perjure him or herself by denying the connection between rising Post-World War II incomes, the technological universality of Imperialism,and contentment with domestic themes in contemporary verse. Participation in consumer 'jihad' is ubiquitous and compulsory, therefore to insist otherwise is to raise a canard.
2 The author would be disingenuous if he did not mention the connection between 'deep ecology', a phrase coined by the German Scientist, Ernst Haeckel, and German Nationalism and National Socialism. American poets are rightly concerned, given their material circumstances, that they will indeed look in the mirror and mistake themselves for Nazis.
3 Peautopsy: Forensic Pathologists Analyze New Yorker Verse
4 Please note the distinction here between "deep ecology" and "deep despair", the latter being a millenial belief that due to current rates of consumption, the planet and everything on it is, eschatologically speaking, fucked, and that any measures that modern science and technology take will only accelerate the end of the world.