Friday, February 15, 2008

The Poets of My Generation

The greatest poets of my generation are women. Catherine Daly, Jen Hofer, Elizabeth Willis, Lisa Jarnot and most perfectly Jennifer Moxley. There must be something about those of us born between 1964 and 1974; maybe it was the drugs our parents took? There are some male poets who deign to ascend to these heights, Gabriel Gudding, Chris Glomski, Joshua Clover, others but all the good action is with female poets I think and we men are really the handmaids to their Sappho.

The fact that so many of our parents were in transition and that our generation sometimes called Generation X has given poetry something new is often ignored or worse. We still live in a poetical world dominated by Baby Boomer narcissism. Many of our poetic lodestars come from this world but I think in the long run the quiet juxopositional poets of our generation will be remembered well when so many periferal Language Poets will be recalled only for their oddness. All the Cyber Poetics of today would not be possible without those of us who grew up with Pong, Atari, Reagan and Hair Bands.

The other day I picked up the Middle Room by Jennifer Moxley. Moxley has always been a challenge for me. When I compare myself to her it is like an ordinary banal Catholic (me) being compared to St Francis- in all things Moxley is a superlative and her poetry is important but this memoir is something else it encapsulates a generation of people who are often ignored.

I am only half way through the Middle Room but when I read this juxtoposed against Christian Wiman's new memoir- Moxley and Wiman are the same age- I am struck by a commonality between them even though their poetic sense is opposite-

the sense of the world as a drawer of broken things.

The one thing that defines Generation X it is that the world is a drawer of broken things. We are a generation that bridges and our poets do the same. We are trying to put back together a world and to understand what has been lost and adopting what has been found.

If you look at a poet like Elizabeth Willis and her book Meteoric Flowers she too is bringing together a drawer of broken things and trying to make sense- to construct something that satisfies. Catherine Daly's book DA DA DA does the same fusing Catholic culture with postmodernity but putting together broken things and the questings of Jen Hofer in Mexico is a perfect mixing of the broken all these poets seem to be doing this.

Moxley's book is so personal.

Disturbingly so.

The Italian poet Andrea Zanzotto once said that the most unnatural thing is to smell the perfume of someone else's lover. That is what reading this book is like. I almost feel like I am violating some secret or some private thing in reading the book. But as a poet who is approximately the same age I can feel the memoir because it is part of my history. Moxley has captured the sense of so many of us who are in our late 30's and early 40's.

The Middle Room is in short a spirituality of poetry that has been lacking in our generation. I have found that I like to read Moxley's book along side Gabriel Guddings Rhode Island Notebook to get both a female and make sides of a generation that is too often ignored while the young hipsters dialogue with Charles Bernstein and Ron Silliman. Moxley has done what Gudding did he captured Maleness for our generation Moxley has captured Poesie for our generation and it is a book that does more than just divulge it encompasses as well.

Moxley has given us a book that gives us a sense of Metanoia.

A change of heart towards literature and poetry. I am going to continue to blog on this book because I simply cannot put it down --it is like reliving my own history and the history of a generation.

I will return to this book in the near future....


michael said...

i, too, have noticed that the women artists of mine & the younger generation, tend to be more interesting than the ones who are men. i tentatively suggest it is because it is not so easy for them to accept unquestioningly the prevailing tenets of art and/or poetry. furthermore, the men who question are more like the women than like other men sunk in orthodoxy.

jason said...

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Archambeau said...


Glad to read this, and to get the chance to talk about it. I've got a long-winded response up over at the blog.

Maethelwine said...

I've noticed a similar trend, though I wouldn't characterize it with such broad strokes. I've wondered at times if its because modern male poets, already defensive about their engagement in a pursuit left so far behind by mainstream culture, are more careful to emulate the charismatic, successful mentors that often drag them into poetry in the first place. Women have models and mentors too, of course, but I wonder if they feel freer to let their freak flags fly without a concern for scorn or social censure. I've known many, many women who claimed poetry as a hobby. I've known almost no men who claimed any involvement with poetry at all unless they had "serious literary aspirations."