The Cleverist Movement: Poetry’s Current Default

Abdication 1, Courage 0

by David St.-Lascaux

AS I AM WONT TO DO, I engaged a stranger at the Maya Lin “Wave Field” at Storm King Art Center who told me that there is a class of artist that intends to do something new, and that in the snobbish caste-system hierarchy of The Arts, this is the top echelon (the others disregarded as dismissable).

Whether one agrees with this philosophy or not, one might concede that the Problem of the New has been a plague on the creative world following the stunning innovations that occurred in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century – an almost actual century ago. Marcel Duchamp – far more than Picasso, the eerie twelve-tone Webern, and, most relevant to a discussion of poetry, the literary avant-gardists Gertrude Stein and Kurt Schwitters broke fundamental molds and created hurdles quite possibly too high to leap without pretention. Poets have been in a creative hamster wheel ever since (free verse, Beat, concrete, Flarf and language poetry notwithstanding, ditto Christian Bök’s überclever, singular, lipogrammatical Eunoia), recycling, homaging, and demonstrating the difficulty of breaking new ground. The result has been the default adoption of cleverness as the primary measure of poetic merit, and the so-far unobserved rise of Cleverism as the predominant, if unintended movement in poetry….

Read the entire essay at PoetryBay online at this link.

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