Tuesday, August 13, 2013

does anyone take this 'metamodernist' poetry seriously at all?

(e.g. http://www.inknode.com/piece/1881-seth-abramson-from-em-the-metamodernist-em / http://www.brooklynrail.org/2013/07/poetry/seth-abramson ) 

I'm suspicious that we've even begun to go beyond modernism--labels like "metamodernism" function as brands that let us know that the poetry is both 'new' and 'sincere' and devoid of irony, a kind of "romantic pragmatism" (whatever that means). They propose a movement "unhindered by ideological anchorage," but the proposal already functions as ideological anchorage itself--otherwise, why have a manifesto at all?

David Foster Wallace was wrong: irony is not simply a postmodern posture but rather an intrinsic part of the way in which we read every text. Modernism was not simply a movement that occurred (and which we now need to get over), but is a part of the way in which normal people function in everyday life: we go to the grocery store, we drive cars, we go back and sleep in our homes, etc.

While things like the radio, television, internet, cheaper travel, cheaper homes, "democracy," certainly make this more complicated, enough so that we might feel the need to use the word "postmodern" to describe some of these particular cultural problems or problems within modernism, I think it's a mistake to just describe it as a linear succession of movements--in a way that just falls back into the modernist agenda with its assumptions about the "progression" of art and culture. I guess don't really have any strong feelings for or against the poetry but I find myself suspicious and confused about the label.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this. I just thought I’d try and clarify a few things from my perspective. Firstly, metamodernism is not predominantly a movement, but an attempt to understand and articulate an emerging cultural paradigm. This considers an age characterised by oscillations between modernist and postmodernist values, between naivety and doubt, sincerity and irony, truth and relativism, pragmatism and romanticism. There are obviously many contradictions at play here; the fact of which, I feel, is reflective of the age in which we live (as you describe in your post).

    My own manifesto is but one quite personal example of such contradiction. It was intended as a sincere, proactive and emphatic statement in the manner of modernist artist manifestos. Yet it is well grounded in postmodern irony, verging knowingly on the side of pomposity. Hence, it certainly grapples with the very question you ask: “Why have a manifesto at all?” From the outset, the text’s inner logic was intended to conflict with itself, to oscillate, in an attempt to wriggle free from its own shackles. Whether successful or not, this is something I believe artists should at least attempt. Though it might be jarring for some, I’m pleased that the manifesto does appear to have struck a chord with many.

    What I feel has been observed in recent years is this renewed individual and collective desire for movement, for change, for transcendence, from a generation who nonetheless know that such things are likely unattainable. This is what myself and numerous contributors have been trying to examine in forums such as Notes on Metamodernism.

    I’m certainly not well versed enough in poetry to speak with any authority about Abramson’s work, though I struggle somewhat to see how the pieces linked above epitomise the metamodern spirit that I have briefly highlighted here. What I do sense, however, is that one could surely find a great number of poets from across the globe who have in recent years been writing in a mode that could be described as metamodern. I feel strongly, however, that there need be no self-serving list to provide the impetus for such movement.

    Just last night, thanks to the beauty of twitter, I discovered the enchanting alliterative verse of one young American poet (whom I shan’t name here, for fear of instigating another list) whose works appear to me to effortlessly oscillate from pole to pole, enacting the very same dance to which I refer. Poets such as her are, I hope, all around us waiting to be discovered and celebrated. The global, collaborative nature of network culture, however, highlights the misguidedness of giving credence to the categorising and ranking of art according to national borders and any one person’s arcane value judgements.

    Finally, from a very personal perspective, I do see a subtle but critical distinction between the “pragmatic romanticism” to which I aspire, and the “romantic pragmatism” that you mention. Though, precisely what this means is certainly an ongoing project.