October 25, 2005

Graphs, Maps, Trees


While I see meaningful use in Kellogg's Cross, particularly when considered as an intertext with Steve Evans' essay on position-taking in the world of poetry; and while I certainly think that one of the functions of Ron Silliman's dichotomy is exactly to ask readers to engage the specificity it lacks—I wonder, since we're adding axes, if there might be another to consider in Kellogg's world, one that would make it three-dimensional. The axis I am imagining is something like FORCE or PROSELYTICS.

For example, in the cross as currrently constituted, we get a "tradition/innovation" axis: per Kellogg, Poetry that, for example, emphasizes its continuity with the past (such as the New Formalist work of poets like Dana Gioia) represents a position close to the “tradition” value-identification. In contrast, avant-garde writing represents a position near the “innovation” value-identification.

Strikingly, though Gioia and Silliman e.g. find themselves at antipodes in this scheme, they have a deep commonality: their shared interest in impressing their own sense of value on the field via their writings, talks, position-takings, jobs, blogs, blurbs, etc. Discursively, they are both proselytizers; Silliman and Gioia would find themselves sitting on the same branch, staring down its full distance to Andrew Joron and Karen Volkman in the great distance.

As for valuing this distinction, one sees both positions rather directly: one might argue that to avoid any aggressive position-taking is by definition a kind of quietude, perhaps even a self-interested straetgy of leaving all bridges unburnt. Or one might argue that positive eclecticism* is the stance of decency, openness, engagement. This debate is of no matter to the current essay, except to note that if one argues either side, one is heading toward Ron and Dana's treehouse.

* I very frequently ask people what kind of music they like. The people who answer that they "like everything" or have "eclectic taste" are uniformly white, cosmopolitan, come from households with above median income, and are college-educated. Everytime someone says this to me, I inquire, "So, like, Garth Brooks? Britney Spears?" And yet, despite their eclecticism, they never, ever turn out to listen to these acts or their ilk. A mystery.

Posted by jane at October 25, 2005 04:25 PM | TrackBack