When attention is paid to Japanese poetry in Anglo-American culture, it is overwhelmingly to what Hosea Hirata observes are considered “authentically ‘Japanese’ texts, such as haiku and waka.” Modern Japanese poetry—and certainly modernist Japanese poetry—have long been relatively overlooked because of their perceived “inauthenticity” and the sense that Japanese responses to movements such as Imagism and surrealism were merely “a translation of Western texts” (Hirata, Poetics, 184).
Although the Beats associated with the avant-garde and although “[scholars] understand the Beat Generation in terms of a literary avant-garde,” historically and from the perspective of forms and gestures, they had in fact repeated, distorted and sometimes mocked the avant-garde. They may thus be defined as a neo-avant-garde.
American Language poetry can be considered a neo-avant-garde movement, at least if we refer to Hal Foster’s definition of the term as the result of a “deferred action,” a later event that recodes the original (historical) avant-garde—e.g.
Reading Loy in the twenty-first century, after the material turn in the humanities, sheds new light on her writing as particularly attuned to how the material and the incorporeal are embedded in each other. Perhaps today the question is no longer whether Loy’s poetics epitomizes the dance of the intellect or the dance of the body, but how it renegotiates intricate entanglements of mind and matter, spirit and flesh, or nature and culture.
The poet Guillaume Apollinaire was for the record. Between 1913 and 1914, he wrote repeatedly about the impact of recording technology on lyric poetry.
Amy Lowell is tired. “This is a work, this poetry,” she writes Harriet Monroe in March of 1922, finalizing the poems she’ll have included in the 1922 version of Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson’s The New Poetry anthology. Lowell had published her eighth and ninth books the previous year, and would publish her tenth in ten years later that fall. She has pulled back on the rigorous lecturing schedule which has kept her away from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts and has had her crisscrossing the country the past several years.
Other papers in this cluster illuminate how modernism and extinction are closely historically related, but my contribution here is specifically concerned with the utility of reading a poet—Ruth Lechlitner—who allows us to think about modernism and extinction along parallel tracks. Lechlitner’s work is attentive to extinction in diverse ways; her poetry confronts the extinction of human solidarity, the extinction of organic life by the machines of extractive capitalism, the extinction of our embeddedness, as human animals, in a multispecies ecology, and the global extinction threat of nuclear war.
In the autumn of 1941, David Jones is carving “bison in the caves of ice” into a hurried single-page fragment, one of the early “experiments” which would, a decade later, yield his late modernist epic poem The Anathemata. Before the final manuscript’s publication in 1952, both the bison and their ice caves will disappear from Jones’s drafts, their meltwater pooling in the footnotes where Jones anticipates the end of the world:
In 1927, a disapproving Edith Wharton presciently pronounced Harry Crosby “a sort of half-crazy cad.” Ernest Hemingway, who spent the summer of 1927 in Pamplona with Crosby, once told Archibald MacLeish, “Harry has a great, great gift. He has a wonderful gift of carelessness” (Wolff, Black Sun, 171). Crosby is a liminal figure hovering in the background of modernist literature—a now largely forgotten poet whose work inspired MacLeish and an aesthetically sophisticated publisher whose Black Sun Press published Hart Crane’s epic poem The Bridge, Short Stories by Kay Boyle, and the first excerpts of James Joyce’s Work-in-Progress to appear in book form. Ben Mazer’s Selected Poems by Harry Crosby brings Crosby’s poetry out of the background of literary modernism and into the foreground for our examination.
In the near-century since the publication of The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane has been widely recognized as the poet of urban modernity, or, in his own words, as a “suitable Pindar for the dawn of the machine age." He has been acclaimed as celebrant and critic, by turn, of America’s myth of itself and as a pioneer cartographer of the queer spaces of the modern metropolis. Paradoxically, perhaps, it is his rendering of the late nineteenth-century Brooklyn Bridge (designed by John Roebling, started in 1869 and opened in 1883), which has been taken as central to his vision of early twentieth-century America’s tensile complexity.