Language Poets Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Ron Silliman (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Silliman, Ron. “Language, Realism, Poetry.” In In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman, pp. xv-xxiii. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1986.

[In following introduction to his anthology of Language Poetry, written in 1984, Silliman briefly comments on the origin and development of the movement.]

“I Hate Speech.” Thus capitalized, these words in an essay entitled “On Speech,” the second of five short critical pieces by Robert Grenier in the first issue of This, the magazine he cofounded with Barrett Watten in winter, 1971, announced a breach—and a new moment in American writing.

As his essay was careful to make...

(The entire section is 3360 words.)

Lee Bartlett (essay date summer 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bartlett, Lee. “What Is ‘Language Poetry?’” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 4 (summer 1986): 741-52.

[In the following essay, Bartlett discusses some of the chief characteristics of the Language Poetry movement as described by several poets and literary critics.]

W. H. Auden, the sometimes Greta Garbo of twentieth-century poetry, once told Stephen Spender that he liked America better than England because in America one could be alone. Further, in his introduction to The Criterion Book of Modern American Verse Auden remarked that while in England poets are considered members of a “clerkly caste,” in America they are an “aristocracy of one.”...

(The entire section is 5140 words.)

Barrett Watten (essay date 1986)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Watten, Barrett. “Method and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E.” In In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman, pp. 599-612. Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, 1986.

[In the following essay, Watten focuses on Surrealism in postwar American art and how the Language Poets incorporated it into their methodology.]

Method in American art after the war incorporated numbers of Surrealist concepts. Traces of automatism and objective chance fuse in the renegotiated value for “the self.” That recognition and the self are equivalent terms is coded into a wide range of art work. Logically, “the method that is no method,” which so many artists have claimed, is consistent...

(The entire section is 4945 words.)

Jerome McGann (review date 15 October 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McGann, Jerome. “Language Writing.” London Review of Books 9, no. 18 (15 October 1987): 6-8.

[In the following review of two anthologies of Language Poetry, McGann sketches the characteristics of the Language Poets' style and philosophy.]

In 1918, the intensity of Yeats's fascination with the young American phenomenon Ezra Pound had cooled enough for Jack Butler Yeats to supply his son with some smouldering paternal wisdom:

The poets loved of Ezra Pound are tired of Beauty, since they have met it so often … I am tired of Beauty my wife, says the poet, but here is that enchanting mistress Ugliness. With her I will live...

(The entire section is 3821 words.)

Jerome J. McGann (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: McGann, Jerome J. “Contemporary Poetry, Alternate Routes.” Critical Inquiry XIII, no. 3 (1987): 624-47.

[In following essay, McGann addresses the social and political implications of the Language Poets' ideas about style and method.]

Opposition is true friendship.

—William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

that the vanishing point might be on every word.

—Lyn Hejinian, “Grammar and Landscape”

What is the significance of that loose collective enterprise, sprung up in the aftermath of the...

(The entire section is 10574 words.)

Douglas Messerli (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Messerli, Douglas. Introduction to Language Poetries: An Anthology, edited by Douglas Messerli, pp. 1-11. New York: New Directions Books, 1987.

[In following introduction to his anthology of Language Poetry, Messerli emphasizes that, while Language Poets as a group constitute “a true community of thought,” their work is also highly individual.]

In a decade in which so many poets and critics have expressed dismay over an ever-shrinking audience for contemporary poetry and have decried what they see as a decline in the cultural and political vitality of poetry and poetics, we have also witnessed something else: an almost meteoric rise in the publications and...

(The entire section is 3569 words.)

George Hartley (essay date 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hartley, George. “‘endless PROTEANL inkages’: Language Poetry and the Avant-Garde Tradition.” In Textual Politics and the Language Poets, pp. 1-25. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

[In the following essay, Hartley demonstrates the stylistic and ideological connection between Language Poetry and the avant-garde tradition in American poetry.]

I begin this essay with an apparent oxymoron: avant-garde tradition. As art critic Rosalind Krauss explains in her essay “The Originality of the Avant-Garde,” one of the key myths of early twentieth-century avant-garde art is its original status, its supposed separation from the “corrupt”...

(The entire section is 10389 words.)

Lynn Emanuel (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Emanuel, Lynn. “Language Poets, New Formalists, and the Techniquization of Poetry.1” In Poetry after Modernism, edited by Robert McDowell, pp. 199-221. Ashland, Oreg.: Story Line Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Emanuel explores the similarities and differences between the methods of Language Poets and those of the New Formalists, concluding that the two groups have much in common.]

There has never been a society—until our own—in which all representations are available equally to any observer at any time. That we are rapidly approaching such a condition (or have reached it) is the result of complex social...

(The entire section is 6817 words.)