I just read a review of star poet Noah Eli Gordon by Chris Glomski the link is above.
There are many points in Glomski's article that bear reflection and Glomski being a finely honed mind has brought those to the fore. I have been unfairly critical on this blog of poets who I think are elitists.
I have been unfair to poets like Peter O'Leary who while there is no doubt of the elitism are creating something new. While I might not like the 'style' or the 'intent' there is no doubt that something new is the Poundian sense is being created.
Poets like O'Leary are also coming out of the pleroma http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleroma of the poetic gods like Duncan and of course Olson and his antecedents using tools to create new poetry and this comes from great depth. As a result the work while elitist or obscurist is original and has merit.
The same cannot be said for other poets.
Glomski notes in his review (please link above to read the whole review)
"If nothing else, Noah Eli Gordon’s work seems worthy of attention precisely to the degree that it causes one to reflect on how all poets may be at the mercy of an assiduous, if not obsessed, mimicry. It would seem that the best poets (to the extent that they become capable of forging something unusually novel) are those whose attempts at mimicry inevitably falter—just enough—that they stumble upon something unmistakable, appropriate, and yet new. Therein lies the master-mimic’s problem: he gets it all too right only when he is most unlike himself"
Mimicry goes back at least to the Psalms which mimicked the Canaanite and Egyptian prayers. But I think that the key to a good mimic is that there is variation and growth and that the mimicry allows the poet to give to his/her art a voice while using a form as his own.
A voice is something unique and urgent. Glomski encapsulates in his review something that I think is one of the most important questions for poets writing today- what is behind their mimicry? What is behind the craft?
I have always loved poets whose work allowed us to see into their innards. Pound, Williams, Stevens, Spicer (whose new Collected is Fabulous), Rexroth, Vallejo mimic and imitate but the sheer richness of their lives and their reading comes shining through and so the mimic is a tool for the ever richer work and it fills with interest. You feel like you getting an inside look at these people's poetic souls.
What Glomski is saying about Gordon- and he does it in a very elegant way- is that the mimic is a replacement for that kind of depth. It appears in Glomski's review that Gordon is skimming the surface and that the mimicry while masterful reveals something else about the poet.