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Susan L. Leary

That’s the Wonder of It:
On the Debate of “Does Poetry Matter?”

Calliope by Cosimo Tura

I have always been somewhat of a lone wolf. Perhaps this has something to do with being an only child or with the fact that growing up, my family moved just about every two-to-three years. As a result, I never experienced those deep, abiding friendships—those that are “the stuff of the ages.” I never developed a desire for such friendships either, even as they were simultaneously presented and withheld from me. What I mean by lone wolf, then, is that, practically-speaking, I am a bad friend. By this I mean I am bad at making plans and keeping them, worse at staying in touch, terrible at checking in on those important to me even in my current existence. I have actually started to warn people of this behavior. To tell them to expect to be disappointed. Of course, no one believes me. I am friendly and gregarious enough in quick conversations at the campus Starbucks or local bookshop to leave colleagues and friends satisfied, in full belief of my investment in the relationship. I smile a lot. I ask the good questions. Eventually, they catch on.

While fully aware of my behavior, I have no interest in changing it. This is because the lone wolf is still deeply social. I believe in community capital and want nothing more than for my experience to be governed by such sacred kinship. I am, at times, overzealous about it, but one’s participation in the collective never loses its allure for a reason. It’s what makes us human. I want to pitch the possibility, however, that the inward contemplation of others can be just as interactive, just as sacred—that thinking, perpetually, on those we adore is an unrecognized version of “peopling” one’s existence, akin for the lone wolf to getting together for lunch or coffee. For me, I prefer to interact with others by mythologizing them in my mind, by mulling over their cosmic significance in the greater space of my imagination. As a result, there’s a symbolism that becomes attached to them—a symbolism that is my best attempt at demonstrating affection and is the closest thing to love.

How this sounds—narcissistic, illusive, willfully ignorant, perhaps something of a cop-out?—I can hardly know, but as I get older, I am learning the ways in which I am bereft of nostalgic fantasies and overwhelming sentimentalities, at least in their traditional sense. For example, the first poem I wrote where I took seriously the possibility of myself as a poet concerned the discovery, in my adult life, of my grandfather’s suicide, a well-kept secret hidden from the family by my Nana, only to be unearthed 50 years later with her passing in 2009. There are many details: my grandfather was a medic in WWII, suffered from PTSD, hung himself in the basement in 1961, the same place where my mother played school and I retrieved cans of green beans and jars of tomato sauce. Yet, I can only imagine him—his voice, his clothes, how he walked, what he liked to eat for dinner. He is one such mythic figure, retaining consistency in my mind even as I continually turn over possibilities for his invention and reinvention. When asked what kind of poetry I write, I respond with poetry that assumes scarce knowledge, that focuses on people I can never fully know. Such poetry sentimentalizes the gaps, the very notions of speculation and approximation. It sentimentalizes the subject of the poem itself in its total, uninterrupted partiality. For me, I sentimentalize the promise of interacting with this man—my grandfather, whoever he may be.

I share these details to create an avenue to insert myself into the ongoing debate of “Does Poetry Matter?” and if so, what does that poetry look like? In “American Poetry in the New Century,” John Barr reminds that “the one valid impulse to write a poem is … always to wonder. For the poet a sense of wonder is prerequisite to afford the possibility of the displacement of language into fresh response.”[i] Experimentation, then, is a derivative of the illusion of knowledge, and Barr very simply cuts through the fallacy of the wisdom behind writing what we know as such knowledge is inherently limited or inherently flawed. In this vein, Dawn Lundy Martin makes the case for poetry as “the genre that allow[s] for a manipulation of language so that it c[an] be stretched beyond its everyday capacity to accommodate horrific realities that make up human experience. It creates an illogic, an appropriate response to the rational narratives that attempt, with little success, to provide [an answer].”[ii] In the face of trauma, oftentimes we say there are no words. We fail at language, citing its insufficiencies. In learning of my grandfather’s suicide, however, the immediate shock was superseded by a wave of understanding that felt both real and unfounded. As I described it to my family, it was if I were incapable of comprehending my very comprehension of his suicide. This is one iteration of what Martin refers to as poetry’s “illogic.” Some intuitions are inaccessible to us, but the language of a poem allows us to inhabit these intuitions without questioning them, to effectively learn what we already know and to learn it with nuance.

Whether implicitly or explicitly stated, subconsciously or consciously perceived, a poem thus figures as “an illogic” because it captures the overlapping nature of multiple subjectivities with both intensity and clarity. In this way, what we know becomes the very act of its creation, when poet, reader, and subject momentarily interact, what Katy Waldman describes as successive “flashes of recognition—connections between the consciousness on the page and the consciousness outside it.”[iii] Such flashes, however, are complex and complicated, and I am especially drawn to Dan Beachy-Quick’s commentary on this subject in his discussion of chorus within Greek tragedy:

The chorus, this we that speaks as an I, reminds us that subjective intimacy … is compromised by the numerous, anonymous undergrounds the word I holds within it. That lyric-I, never singular, but uttered by a singer’s mouth … stood also in relation to events that affected the chorus and of which the chorus has imperfect knowledge. The lyric stood aside the narrated event … seeking some fact it knew must exist, but of which it could feel only the vestige, only its troubled absence.[iv]

I find this “troubled absence” to be not so much a void or a haunting as it is an aperture. In exploring my grandfather’s suicide through poetry and in reading that of others on related matters, I am continually struck by the subtle interplay of question and answer—that sensation of getting nearer to the subject itself, of movement. In line with the Greek tragedy motif, a poem tends to make the partiality of knowledge feel resonant, as if it were somehow fated, allowing a sentimentality for the poem’s subject to take hold, even as that subject is endlessly pursued and contested. It’s as if contained within the poem is something, always, to be believed.

This ability of a poem to enact a fate is what allows it to, in fact, move the reader; however, I understand experimental poetry is less interested in engaging strong emotion as it is in engaging abstraction, irony, and detachment. The more impenetrable the language, the less emotional the reader. While there are of course exceptions, sometimes many—for the most part, and particularly as it relates to the canon, sentiment and innovation exist in a persistent, non-negotiable binary. But such a view leaves me to wonder why I am most moved by poets whose work is characterized by its obscurity—and why I am not alone in this response. In “Hybrid Poets Exists,” for example, Samuel Amadon shares his frustration with “the imagined divide between ‘difficulty’ and ‘heart.’ … [the belief] that accessibility and ease are necessary conditions for one to feel something,” posing the question: “Does anyone really think that the intellect alone is what guides us through the pages of Paul Celan’s Breathturn or the poems of Emily Dickinson?”[v] In a more concrete example, Joy Katz insists sentiment abounds in John Ashbery’s, “Into the Dusk-Charged Air,”[vi] a poem characteristically described as “chilly,” “remote” and “cruelly frustrating” in its cataloging of over a hundred rivers. She writes:

… a decathlon list poem is void of sentiment almost by design. All right, I grant that [the poem] feels more willed than inspired. One hundred and seventeen river names do not spring from the heart onto the page. There is no confessional element in the poem, no ‘universal’ experience to snag a reader’s empathy, no sigh-producing epiphany. I learned nothing about Ashbery’s life, desires, or personal pain from reading the poem, but I sensed his hunger for the world, his tenderness. In fact, I find more tenderness in this poem than in many confessional poems. Its sentiment comes partly from the romantic verbs: the rivers glister, dream, and skulk; they offer ‘eternal fragrance;’ they see ‘the fluttering of the crested birds.’ The reason such higher diction doesn’t feel too sweet, though, is because it pushes against flatter moments. For instance, the Paraná stinks, and the river Inn, which ‘does not remember better times,’ neatly avoids the pitfalls of nostalgia. Perhaps, after all, Ashbery worried that a long list poem would not inhere in a reader’s heart. Maybe that’s why he chose such a dreamy title. Who would say ‘Into the Dusk-Charged Air’ is cold?[vii]

As Katz notes, the juxtaposition of extremes—of flat and romantic images—prevents the poem from becoming too sentimental. Nature exists not as an idea or trope, but as a series of lived realities which Ashbery records in immense detail. Sentiment, therefore, becomes a function of specificity—of the complexity inherent within the life of each river, quite unlike the typical accusation against sentiment of one-dimensionalizing emotion. This is exactly why Katz senses “his hunger for the world, his tenderness,” even as Ashbery’s work is often considered the most unnavigable of the canon. Here, rather, Ashbery creates such a navigable mystery of the landscape that the poem imparts a welcomed elusiveness—an instance of the reverence, or sentimentality, for the gaps I offered earlier. When Katz first encountered the poem, even she remarks that “the poem was not without emotion, although at the time I couldn’t have said why,” a response that echoes mine at the news of my grandfather’s suicide in its attempt to reckon with intuition. The side-by-side characterization of hunger and tenderness participates equally in revealing the poem’s ability to generate ‘felt’ experience as Ashbery is both fast and slow in his recanting of the rivers: he is persistent, swift to record, yet also patient, sensitively attuned—able to linger. Or, as is advocated by the New York School, “you just go on your nerve.”[viii]

Perhaps, then, we do what we can to resist the interim. Perhaps clarity is overrated. Perhaps obscurity is over-inflated in a poem when we encounter it. Yet sentiment, when captured productively, keeps poet, reader, and subject occupied at a threshold. Language poet, Rae Armantrout, favors this poetic mode, saying about her work, “I think my poetry involves an equal counterweight to assertion and doubt. It’s a Cheshire poetics, one that points two ways then vanishes in the blur of what is seen and what is seeing, what can be known and what it is to know. That double-bind.”[ix] As a Language poet, Armantrout is programmed to challenge the authority of a speaker, to resist closure, to favor discontinuity and disjointedness, and to invite the intellectualization of what is not said in a poem. Yet, how could such interplay of assertion and doubt be without feeling? And how might such feeling extend beyond mere disorientation?

I’d like to make the argument that Armantrout’s “double-bind” offers an important distinction missed in experimental poetry: that is the difference between self-consciousness (and the risking of evasion) and self-awareness (and the risking of communication). As I interpret it, sentiment is the enactment of the latter: of awareness, self or otherwise. An awareness which allows a poem to give the impression that life has been taken seriously—that a life is taken seriously. My favorite of Armantrout’s poems, “Later,”[x] offers a representative example, beginning with Section 2, in which Armantrout’s speaker is intentionally reflective, invoking history though without providing the means for one to unravel it:

How much would this body
have had to be otherwise in order
not to be mine,

for this world
not to exist?

When would that difference
have had to begin?

Such questioning demonstrates the insufficiency of cause and effect to arrive at self-understanding. In a way, the building blocks of self are likened to the building blocks of language: words, fragments can be strung together no more clearly to make sentences or thoughts than can past incidents or events to make a person. Yet there is still something of oneself at the core that is intact. How can this be? becomes the eternal question, prompting us to explore the mystery of how situation transforms into psychology. The poem thus sentimentalizes the possibility of a changing self even as that change is relegated to illusion.

Such inquiry is inherently pleasing, as in Section 3 Armantrout shifts gears to convey a reverence for the surprise in discovering the magnitude of one’s distinctness:

The old lady invited me to her soirée. Maybe I was even
older than she was. I was mysterious, at any rate, a rarity,
until the room filled up. Then not. When she handed
out chocolates, she forgot me. I gesticulated as if it were
funny and she gave me two pink creams. Me! As if I
would have ever wanted these!

Images of pink creams and soirées connote celebration and self-delight, as do the repeated exclamations, yet Armantrout avoids the overly-dramatic and self-indulgent by exposing the speaker’s unexpected vulnerabilities. Though the “I” of the poem is happy to have been invited, she is but one more person at the party. She was “a rarity” and “[t]hen not.” Armantrout often juxtaposes the personal with the universal, detail with generalization, as in this case, she aligns the speaker’s uniqueness with her sudden arbitrariness. Yet, nothing is perceived as tragic. There is no wound, no bad taste left in the mouth, only seamless transition into the old lady’s decorous act, happily received: “I gesticulated as if it were / funny and she gave me two pink creams. Me!”

In pairing this simple human gesturing alongside the internalization of Section 2, the poem is at once simple and complex, low-stakes and high-stakes, an example of that threshold between certainty and uncertainty. Armantrout makes this threshold livable, and succeeds in communicating a feeling in the poem that is steady even in its open-endedness. Questions are never afforded answers, but there is intrinsic value in the awareness of those questions to begin with. When the speaker returns home in Section 4 to “speak in splashes,” and “Later/[to] have the lonely dream,” lonely suggests just that: solo-ness, the phenomenon of the lone wolf, a kind of intact individualism. Yet dream suggests an ability to project oneself into the future, to imagine that what feel like the certainties, or inevitabilities of one’s life, have no bearing on the creation of hypotheticals. A “lonely dream” thus attaches sentiment to the idea of possibility, even in its subtle rejection. It is a backwards, almost ironic approach at self-affirmation—a take on you can have your pink creams and eat them too.

While irony is typically contrasted with sentiment, here it is a sound, trustworthy and transparent reflector of the way one lives a life. When I think on my grandfather’s suicide, I know nothing, yet I know he took his life seriously, that taking his life was a decision he made in earnest, if it can even be called a decision. In its very nature, suicide evokes a sense of finality, permanence—of absolutism. In encountering the word, I am each time jolted by a singular sensation, one that cuts as sharp as it does deep. Yet, the lived reality of its possibility often emerges from a very opposite instinct: that of ambivalence, which across the literature, ranks as the primary feature of suicide ideation.[xi] Analogously, those who survive an attempted suicide often report having experienced an immediate regret, the act registering as a miscommunication with the self, despite the certitude leading up to it. It is the ultimate paradox, yet it is sincere.

For my grandfather and those like him, the contradiction between the wish to live and the wish to die figures as the consummate threshold experience, a state of mind Armantrout conjures in the closing lines of her poem, “Prayers”:[xii]

The fear
that all this
will end.

The fear
that it won’t.

While the poem isn’t specifically about suicide, Armantrout identifies the sharp logic at the heart of ambivalence in that the speaker is in no way torn, but rather clear on the scarcity of options. In fact, I am increasingly moved by the speaker’s ability to take notice of herself and the particularities of her life against such a backdrop. The italicization of “this” is especially revealing. While it may be easy to interpret such a term as unremarkable or too big to communicate self-understanding, I see “this” as representative of the totality of one’s existence having registered deeply in the mind and heart. I see “this” as indicative of intricacy, mostly the difficulty in confronting it. Earlier in the poem, Armantrout writes, “All we ask / is that our thinking // sustain momentum, / identify targets,” which she follows with, “The blue triangles / on the rug / repeating.” These lines intimate a prickly reality: the more contact we make with ourselves and the world, the more, and concurrently less, suggestive the accrued knowledge. In other words, meaning exists to be negotiated, each nuance carrying the capacity for loophole, for undoing, only to be reinvented once more, as elsewhere Armantrout notes, “Anything cancels / everything out.”[xiii] Thus, we grow perplexed by our ability to look around and with palms extending up and outward, gesture at the very “this” of our realities. It’s a strange kind of awe, which makes everything seem so existential. For this reason, as new “targets” come into focus, one only resettles into the “repeating” angles of him or herself. We thus know ourselves insofar as we are ourselves. And why not?

In the controversial “Poetry Slam, Or, The decline of American verse,” however, Mark Edmundson criticizes contemporary poetry for its failure to “slake a reader’s thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we hold in common.”[xiv] While we recognize from the likes of Claudia Rankine and Ben Lerner that such universality is improbable and fictitious, damning even—a “fantasy”[xv] at best—Armantrout’s use of “this” succeeds in approaching a version of shared truth we might accept. Specifically, Armantrout is tender and direct to capture the very patterns that govern our emotional and intellectual valences, as with the rug’s triangles. Such patterns figure predominantly as a series of life managements, and it is suggested we are especially prone at managing our happiness through managing our plights, (un)comfortabilities, and idiosyncrasies. In a prime example, the prophetic wisdom of the opening lines is delivered in clear anticipation of its disturbance: “We pray / and the resurrection happens. // Here are the young again, / sniping and giggling.” Then: “The pressure / in my lower back / rising to be recognized / as pain.” We thus aim to resurrect the self in its full register, without risking exclusion of those aspects we find most troubling, even while, in fleeting moments, such aspects might be believed irrelevant, able to be eradicated. This isn’t to say we are primarily pessimistic, grief-stricken, or challenged, but that there is something courageous, even miraculous, in our attempts to manage what we believe about ourselves to, most likely, be true. In such an arrangement, there exists not pride in traumas but in self-intimacy—in awareness, even as it eludes us. While we can never become our own gods, and while omnipotence is an illusion, we continue to summon ourselves, to embrace the experience of self-habitation, as is evoked by the titular reference to “Prayers.”

John Barr advocates for a similar restraint against the tragic, lamenting the pervasiveness of the mood: “Indeed one of poetry’s jobs is to descant on the worst life can hand us … But art should not be only about malfunction. Poetry need not come only from impairment.”[xvi] Armantrout answers the call beautifully, demonstrating the incredibly delicate line between nihilism and intimacy towards the self. My grandfather ended his life through extremely violent means. The sheer physicality of it is deeply troubling. That my Nana found his bloated body in the darkest part of morning, holding my two-year-old mother at her waist, can bring me unexpectedly to weep. Yet, I cannot help but believe his suicide to be born from a place of self-intimacy, from tenderness, or at the very least, a desire for it. Quite frankly, how can this not be a display of gentleness towards the self? Such an act humanizes the activity of self-appraisal, suggesting there is authenticity, as well as compassion, in the space between emotion and action, intent and outcome.

A poem is not much different. A poem says someone is alive, someone matters, someone lives here. It is an invitation to inquire more, for a reader to say I agree to be invested—to participate. As it relates to knowledge, and as I’ve applauded: we only almost get there. We are but in a continuous state of reaching after, of reaching towards. Yet, this is the point of poetry: to operate in relation to self and other from a position of nearness. In light of my grandfather’s suicide, what has become most appealing to me about poetry is its promise of access, of interaction that is well-intentioned and a product of good faith. In a way, poetry’s specialness resides within the fact that contact with another is but the thrill of its potential. Because even as we are presented with gaps, with continued partiality, produced within a poem is a sense not of wonder, but of wonderment. It surpasses a demand for action, floating instead the capacity for an inquisitiveness we cannot help but catch feelings for.

What I’m suggesting, then, is a desire for universality is too often conflated with a desire for contact. If this sounds too grand or utopian, I certainly don’t intend for it to be. I myself am most taken by Jonathan Farmer’s reasoning behind poetry’s significance because it is framed so simply. Poetry, he says, “matters because one poem matters to one person and another matters to another, and it matters more because it’s enlivening to have that kind of thing in common.”[xvii] A poem is thus nothing more than a placeholder for interaction, and how well this interaction holds or for how many it yields meaning becomes entirely moot. A poem matters simply because one just might like it—and if a poem is anything like a person, our circles of influence aren’t that wide, yet they are incredibly alive, tenderly knit, and replete with love. In “Scientist of Mystic,” Dorothea Lasky writes: “… the ‘I’ of a poem can be anyone or anything, all the things the poet has not yet been, seen through the lens of what he or she already has been.”[xviii] The shifting nature of the “I”—whether in explicit appearance or not—allows for an endless stream of subjectivities to be at play in a poem. Armantrout uses “I” incredibly sparingly and when she does, it is through the use of meticulously personalized details and images, which are then juxtaposed with very depersonalized ones. The approach leaves room for an openness of interpretation while also allowing the reader to be ushered out of the poem with mysteriously modifiable wisdom, as in “Autobiography: Urn Burial”: “In the moment of experience / one may drown / while another looks on.”[xix] A poem thus moves the reader insofar as the poem affords the opportunity for the reader to move his or her reality—to both augment and abandon his or her frame of reference so as to participate in another world, one that bears a resemblance to nothing and everything at once. We thus bring a perspective to the poem that is specifically ours but also willfully negotiable and rigorously intrigued. We adapt and bend what we hold to be true without compromising ourselves nor any of the various, and varying, subjectivities in orbit.

It is in this way sentimentality begins to manifest as intellectualized empathy. Such empathy is the epitomal grantor of lone wolf status, a motif I used to open the essay, and a characterization I gave myself rather proudly. The funny thing is, I am no more of a lone wolf than is anyone else. Such a description, in fact, singles me out leastly of all. Maybe it’s total malarkey, but I find the poem world to be a lot like the wolf world. While the poems of Armantrout, Ashbery, and others transmit an aura of opacity and indeterminacy, at the same time, they transmit an undeniable honesty—a raw, no-holds-barred approach to what’s encountered. The world of non-human nature is equally responsible, equally straightforward in its acts of arbitration. It lacks pretense, lacks manipulation, suffers no signs of even the slightest falsity. This isn’t to argue such a world isn’t complex. Rather, such a world is complex in its innate privileging of the present. The wolf interprets as she experiences, moving in response to her determinations, heeding every intuition as each changes up, doubles back. There is thus a deliberately-executed empathy in response pattern as the wolf doesn’t wish to alter the complexities of her surroundings, but thinks, generously, instead: There is a will here. One I wish to respect, one I wish to be alongside. Such empathy can be ferocious, brute, duly violent—as with my grandfather—yet it is also necessary, enabling the particularly lone wolf to ascend as a metaphor for absence, for what is felt but not seen through engagement. This absence isn’t hollow or wounded, but an assurance of possibility—of what is lurking, in each passing moment, on the horizon. The lone wolf thus asks us to claw after a present we are in the very act of inhabiting.

This fashioning of an eternal present has resonances in leading Language poet Lyn Hejinian’s characterization of the poem as “an open text,” one that “resists reduction and commodification.”[xx] In transcending such constraints, Hejinian reveres the poem’s ability to be continuously in motion as there is no standard interpretation to drain the poem of its life. A poem thus figures as a concept of the current moment, deciphered as endlessly as it is encountered. This ability to defy artifact status reminds me of my grandfather, whose suicide figures as a gracious rendering of his very nature—his tender “this,” which we know to be inherently fluid. There is thus no option for rationalization. No one can know for sure how he might have felt or how he might have thought. In fact, that meaning is protected by its ability to be repeatedly altered. Under no terms, then, can I imagine my grandfather’s death to be a bowing out; only means to resist a self-objectification similar to that which Hejinian cautions for the poem.

This isn’t to deny my grandfather’s experience to have, at times, been one-dimensional, whether darkly, pleasantly, or predictably so. I understand such a statement risks sentimentality in the conventional sense, but I believe, vigorously, the mood can be quiet and unassuming without being reductive. When I think about my grandfather, I simply like this man. I want only to spend the day with him, in perhaps the same uneventful way as did his wife and daughters. At two, my mother was the youngest. In her words, she remembers “next to nothing,” save for a single image, one she cannot say with certainty is a memory, but perhaps merely a dream:

It’s a sunny afternoon. A Sunday, just after mass. And the car, a 1960 blue Ford Falcon, is parked under the fir trees on the side of the house. Her father is loading her into the backseat, between her five and seven-year-old sisters, so they all might go for ice cream. Across her lap, the swishing of their dresses. It happens quickly, of course: especially her father’s hands, untucking from within the tiny caves of her arms—his body pulling away, his feet directioning back. Until for the briefest second, he pauses, so to look sweetly on her face. All then, evaporates.

On the telephone, I am, at times, compelled to ask my mom to speak her dream, to re-narrate the details, so that through her language I might re-experience her vision and feel happy—feel good. Because here’s a man and his daughters with plans for ice cream. There isn’t anything special about the occasion, except that there is. In appealing my mom for such an image, I do not mean to imply emotion must be stoked or inspired, rather, that I simply cannot fault sentiment’s capacity to offer a pretty picture—to delight one’s mind with an intimacy that is attractive in its perpetual reinvention. I thus consider what we call sentimental to reflect not an artificiality but an illusion of it—an illusion that, in fact, protects the sacredness of something more basic, more profound: that of the mundane. In no way, however, are the particulars undermined. That is to say, in no way do I forget my grandfather actually killed himself, that he strung cording from the laundry line through the rafters, kicked a bench out from under him. Instead, what comes to light is an abundance of privately-held emotions able to impart a feeling social and ritualistic in nature—to dignify all involved. A pretty picture thus coalesces subjectivities—mine, my grandfather’s, my Nana’s, my aunts’—though through means more than through ends. Because we have such imperfect knowledge, we thus write an imperfect poem, which is precisely the point. And before getting off the phone, to my mom I say: yours is such a lovely dream.


[i] Barr, John. “American Poetry in the New Century.” POETRY Magazine. September 2006.

[ii] Martin, Dawn Lundy. “Genre & Genre Theory.” Harriet Blog.

[iii] Waldman, Katy. “Who are You Calling Opaque?” Slate. June 27, 2013.

[iv] Beachy-Quick, Dan. “The ‘I’ of Lyric.” Boston Review. December 6, 2012

[v] Amadon, Samuel. “Hybrid Poets Exist.” Boston Review. December 6, 2012.

[vi] Ashbery, John. “Into the Dusk-Charged Air.” Rivers and Mountains. Holt, Rinehart & Winston: New York, 1966.

[vii] Katz, Joy. “When ‘Cold’ Poems Aren’t.” From “A Symposium on Sentiment.” Pleiades. 32.1.

[viii] O’Hara, Frank. “Personism: A Manifesto.” Paul Hoover, ed. Postmodern American Poetry. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2013.

[ix] Armantrout, Rae. “Cheshire Poetics.” Collected Prose. San Diego: Singing Horse Press, 2007.

[x] Armantrout, Rae. “Later.” Paul Hoover, ed. Postmodern American Poetry. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2013.

[xi] World Health Organization. “Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Primary Health Care Workers.” Mental and Behavioral Disorders Department of Mental Health. Geneva, 2016.

[xii] Armantrout, Rae. “Prayers.” Paul Hoover, ed. Postmodern American Poetry. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2013.

[xiii] Armantrout, Rae. “Yonder.” Paul Hoover, ed. Postmodern American Poetry. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2013.

[xiv] Edmundson, Mark. “Poetry Slam, Or, The decline of American verse.” Harper’s Magazine. July 2013.

[xv] Lerner, Ben. “Does Poetry Make Us Human?” POETRY Magazine. April 2016. From The Hatred of Poetry. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. New York: 2016. / Loffreda, Beth and Rankine, Claudia, eds. The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Fence Books: Albany, 2015.

[xvi] Barr, John. “American Poetry in the New Century.” POETRY Magazine. September 2006.

[xvii] Farmer, Jonathan. “How Much Does ‘Does Poetry Matter’ Matter?” Los Angeles Review of Books. July 21, 2014.

[xviii] Lasky, Dorothea. “Scientist of Mystic.” Boston Review. December 6, 2012

[xix] Armantrout, Rae. “Autobiography: Urn Burial.” Paul Hoover, ed. Postmodern American Poetry. 2nd edition. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2013.

[xx] Hejinian, Lyn. “The Rejection of Closure.”


About the writer:
Susan L. Leary is a Lecturer in English Composition at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Her creative work has been published or is forthcoming in many print and online journals, including The Christian Century, Crack the Spine, After the Pause, Into the Void, The Bookends Review, and SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami), among others. Her poem, In Utero, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Image: Calliope by Cosimo Tura (1430-1495). Oil on panel. 45.6 x 27.9 inches. Circa 1460. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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