Things about 'The New Thing' essay in Boston Review

I provided the link to the essay "The New Thing" from Boston Review in a previous post. Now that I've had some time to read it and crunch it up and digest it in my brain (strange description but you know what I mean) here are some thoughts on this piece.

Some, as they like to say, salient points regarding compression and concision. I think that's a nice turn from the puking of words that has also been a movement (though I do like some puking of words sometimes, too) previous to this one. Stephen Burt makes this point over and over again in his essay, perhaps too many times. It's a bit repetitive in that it says the same point over and over again, if you see what I mean, which you might, since I'm doing it myself right now. On purpose.

He sites as ancestors of the concise, compressed lyric verse of these days the Objectivists (who didn't like to be called Objectivists, but when do artists ever like a label put on them from an outside figure?) and then, reaching way far back, the Greek lyric poets, including Sappho.

But looking over my list books, as I've been doing today, I think there can be sited another possible source of inspira for these succinct lyrical poems he discusses: Paul Verlaine. Two examples from the website Poetry in Translation:

Streets
(Romances Sans Paroles: Streets)

Let’s dance a jig!


I loved, above all, her pretty eyes

Brighter than stars in the skies,

I loved her malicious eyes likewise.


Let’s dance a jig!


She for sure, she knew the art

Of breaking a poor lover’s heart,

How charmingly she played the part.


Let’s dance a jig!


But I find it even better

That kiss of her mouth in flower

Now, in my heart, she’s a dead letter.


Let’s dance a jig!


I recall, oh I recall

The hours, the words we let fall,

And this the very best of all.


Let’s dance a jig!


The sky’s above the roof…. (Sagesse: Bk III,VI)

The sky’s above the roof

So blue, so calm!

A tree above the roof

Waves its palm.


The bell in the sky you see

Gently rings.

A bird on the tree you see

Sadly sings.


My God, my God, life’s there,

Simple and sweet.

A peaceful rumbling there,

The town’s at our feet.


– What have you done, O you there

Who endlessly cry,

Say: what have you done there

With youth gone by?


Just saying, maybe some people were thinking of these 3-5 syllable lines of Verlaine, who did this radical rhythm in a time when the Alexandrine was still the norm of French poetry.


I don't see the writers of the poems sited flocking to this label because, as I said before, artists of all kinds tend to reject outsider labels. Plus, the umbrella for The New Thing is fairly large and I don't know that it can keep all the examples under it for a long period of time. To me it was more of a "notice these threads occurring in contemporary poetry".

So to sum it all up, The New Thing has:

documentary/ scene-like snippets in a poem
not so autobiographical
about nature
short-line lyrics
concise
of 2001 and on

Their counterparts were"

personal
effusive
digressive
elusive
of 2000 and back, unless a crappy derivative of the good ones

And The New Thing includes lots of different writers. THE END.


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