Adam Fieled, on his blog has really opened an issue I think is essential for poetry as an art form today. Can "post avant, experimental, Post Language, Flarf, Conceptualist" poetry be edgy?
In Kenneth Rexroth's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Rexroth Autobiographical Novel he shares with us his life . Rexroth experiences everything the IWW, the Bughouse Square Socialists, The Beats, Helping Japanese Internees, Thomas Merton's Trappists, SF Rennaissance poets, Various painters, and more. Rexroth is cutting edge because he is living on the edge without comfort. The edge is a place where he lived. The writing did not need much for that life to come out and become central to the work.
The kind of diverse formation that Rexroth had also informed other writers like Witold Gombrowitz the great Polish diarist. He lived in poverty and exile but who was committed to the work and to pushing boundaries. It did not matter to Gombrowitz that he was poor, alone and far from home he lived on the edge and it filled his work.
The reason contemporary so much of Post Avant writing is not edgy is that poets do not know where the edge is located. Poets writing today lived lives of comfort on a set formative track that I like to call the Poetry Industrial Complex.
Poets go to grad school where they make connections and they never have even seen the edge much less lived it. They write clever blogs and they are published by their friends who also were formed by the Poetry Industrial Complex. Most of these poets live very comfortable lives and anything edgy they write is mostly artifice. How could the cutting edge come from that formation? Out of the Poetry Industrial Complex and its formation some interesting Conceptual Poetry and Flarf have developed but the work is hardly edgy.
Poets who write edgy work are pushed to the margins by those formed by the Poetic Industrial Complex. he poets of the Poetry Industrial Complex prefer to exist within their sealed Tupperware world where they only breathe their own air. This air does not allow for truly edgy poetry.
All is not lost however there are many poets writing Post Avant who are edgy- they just are not as well known or many times in New York...
Here are some suggestions for edgy work ...
- In Chicago there is a slam poet Kevin Coval whose work has the "slam" aesthetic but is also challenging and you can feel edgy truth in the writing.
- Another is Mark Nowak whose work is both edgy and well done and actually working class which is a place most Post Avant poets have only read about in books.
- Chicago poet (But now in Poland) Mark Tardi has all the Poetry Industrial Complex bonafides but he is a poet of hard edges without sentiment.
- Jesse Seldess poetry is filled with the disturbing world of for example Alzheimers yet his work is not read widely yet.
- A couple of well formed edgy poets are Harryette Mullins and Ed Roberson's whose work is well read. Maybe someone ought to send a pallet of their books to President Obama so when he picks a poet to write a poem for the inauguration he gets something stomach able.
- Garin Cycholl whose geographic/historical poetry weds a poetry of place with a true avant garde sense in ways that have not been seen since Charles Olson's Maximus is very edgy.
- Jen Hofer has all the Poetry Industrial Complex formation but none of the artifice pushes boundaries from a life lived on the edge. She is also a great bridge to Latin American writing.
- Speaking of poets on the edge there are so many global poets whose work is filled with edginess- Virna Teixiera, Sergio Medeiros, and Maria Esther Maciel in Brazil, Giovanna Frene and Marco Giovenale in Italy, Haydar Ergodian in Turkey, Dunia Mikhail in Iraq, Laura Solorzano, in Mexico and many others.
Their books are all available... So go buy them and break the tupperware seal of your mind.