Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life (20/21) by Oren Izenberg

By Oren Izenberg

"Because it's not that i am silent," George Oppen wrote, "the poems are bad." What does it suggest for the goodness of an artwork to rely on its disappearance? In Being quite a few, Oren Izenberg deals a brand new option to comprehend the divisions that manage twentieth-century poetry. He argues that crucial clash isn't among kinds or aesthetic politics, yet among poets who search to maintain or produce the incommensurable particularity of expertise by means of making strong items, and poets whose radical dedication to summary personhood turns out altogether incompatible with experience--and with poems.

Reading around the obvious gulf that separates conventional and avant-garde poets, Izenberg finds the typical philosophical urgency that lies at the back of assorted different types of poetic difficulty--from Yeats's esoteric symbolism and Oppen's minimalism and silence to O'Hara's pleased slightness and the Language poets' rejection of conventional aesthetic satisfactions. For those poets, what starts as a pragmatic query concerning the behavior of literary life--what distinguishes a poet or crew of poets?--ends up as an ontological inquiry approximately social existence: what's anyone and the way is a group attainable? within the face of the violence and dislocation of the 20th century, those poets withstand their will to mastery, draw back from the sensual richness in their most powerful paintings, and undermine the particularity in their innovative and ethical visions--all so that it will let personhood itself to grow to be an incontrovertible fact making an unrefusable declare.

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Extra resources for Being Numerous: Poetry and the Ground of Social Life (20/21)

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These first three chapters of the book are part of the project of literary-historical revision I announced at the outset. They allow us to see connections between poets like Yeats and Oppen who lie on opposite sides of the apparent divide between tradition and experiment. They also seek to reinterpret the meaning of the experiments undertaken by Oppen and O’Hara—poets who have been recruited by our contemporary avant-gardes to provide a history and justification for their own exclusive vision of legitimate poetic practice—and so challenge the legitimacy of divisions made, in part, in the names of those predecessor poets.

The history of this poetry in the twentieth century has been a history of pursuing this confidence and of negotiating its price. INTRODUCTION 36 Philosophically speaking, however, the idea of Great Mind that Yeats drew from Neoplatonism, ceremonial magic, and Theosophy could be squared only uneasily with the bounded concerns of his nationalism. ” The poet’s increasingly radical vision of aesthetic education, the shifting mechanisms by which he imagined it might work (sometimes by rational pedagogy, sometimes by magical transformation), and the ever-expanding horizon in which he envisioned its unifying effects (national, global, or metaphysical), placed conflicting and impossible demands on Yeats’s actual poems.

Considered temporally, this is to say that it pre-exists the human measures that a poem counts; considered spatially, we might say it is located outside or beneath the conceptual frame that the poem occupies or charts. Rather than standing as the endpoint of a “way” (wayward, penitent, imperfect, prone to misdirection or loss), or appearing as the emblem of a communicative channel opened between individuated subjects, the Atemkristall—though it never quite appears—is a kind of argument that there exist forces of attraction that draw all things together and that are (under ideal circumstances) irresistible and perfecting.

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