Friday, May 30, 2003

I guess I am still a little confused over what David means by a "social poet."

Initially I thought he meant a quality of writing: a poetry which creates (as he put it) "a social language that desires all to speak, hear and be heard." You could argue that O'Hara has this quality in the way he lets "everything" into the poem, no matter how ephemeral or casual; but the question is whether "all" means "other people," whether other voice that are not O'Hara's are heard and welcomed in the work or whether we still hear O'Hara behind it all. You could also argue (in doctrinaire langpo style) that Andrews has this quality because he directly engages the reader, forcing attention onto the way the reader (not just the writer) is implicated in the language that makes up the poem, that his "Hey you" style forces you to respond in some way.

But the "social" also seems to overlap with a biographical quality (shades of psychological criticism!): the "social" (networking, scenester, movement) poet vs. the loner, the homeless maverick. I guess neither O'Hara nor Andrews would be "asocial" on these grounds, which is why I imagine Adorno wouldn't have been too fond of either of them.

And then vs. the political (i.e. the critical?)--in David's sense it seems you could be social without being political, inclusive of the social world without necessarily being critical of it and seeking change.

If I'm being cynical I might even say that there is no poet who is truly social in David's terms, even if we endorse a bardic notion in which a poet speaks for a community--for even in this model, the poet is speaking on behalf of others rather than allowing or encouraging others to speak.

Whitman is perhaps the most inclusive of modern poets. But when we read Whitman, do we really hear the voices of all those persons he evokes? Or do we simply hear the ever more expansive and all-absorbing voice and ego of Whitman?

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