Fashion Poetics #2

Cristine, the smartest person in the worst class I took at UGA, English Literature before 1700, commented on my previous Fashion Poetics post:

"No, but I do think you're an ass if you're suggesting, and I am afraid you may be, that Keats is not an artistic poet simply because he is widely anthologized? If this is the case then you should revisit Keats."

I'm not saying it's Keats' fault by any means. Nor is it really the fault of any poet who becomes popular. I'm sure at some point, Pinsky thought of himself as an outsider poet, but as he became popular and a pop culture symbol, he should have attempted, if he was able, to point more towards changing landscapes rather than attempting to capitalize on his fame in publishing just to get more poems out there. However, I don't think that's what his poetics was ever about, which maybe why he was popular.

Keats, especially due to his young death, had no idea at the time he would become the canon. Pinsky and Collins are guys that seemed to take advantage of their position, attempting to staying free of the experimental poetry argument.


Watching Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model, I took note of a situation where the designer told the group of girls that the clothes were very delicate and that any major movements would rip their precious threads. I wondered to myself, "What's the point of such a cloth or article of clothing?" It was then that I thought again about fashion poetics and how this was not functional clothes design but the design and construction of clothing as art. Models are simply an easel, I guess.

And I came to think about poetry again and how, as in every art form, there are pieces for mass consumption and those that function within the art's circle. I don't think this is anything new: there has always been popular fiction and art fiction, but now the academy is deciding what constitutes non-pop literature. Poets needed jobs in order to survive, so now there is a mass movement of a group. Poetry as a counterpublic, to use Michael Warner.

I think to some extent this comes back to a question Johannes had about "difficult poems": generally, people don't want to have to work at anything, so poems become "difficult" when they cannot immediately discern meaning. Keats' poems are not complex poems in terms of meaning, which is why I believe he is a part of the high school canon. I believe there is a directness in Romantic poetry that makes it easy for a high school student to get through without having to delve too deeply into what is really going on. Perhaps that hardest thing a high school student would ever have to encounter is Cummings. I believe the existence of the canon can be traced to those who prefer poetry they don't have to work at understanding.

For those outside of art, it's about finding a way to make sense of what they are being shown. This usually comes to some kind of quantifiable measure like ratings and profits. 'Twin Peaks' may have been one of the best shows the television had the luck of displaying, but because it did not make immediate sense to suits and the public, it was considered unworthy of a good slot on the schedule. Eventually Lynch grew tired and quit working on it.

I think too there's some compulsion towards love in everything: movies, television, novels, and especially poems. It's easy to understand topics of love because it's something we're all nearing on an obsession with. Life seems most nearly to be about the relationships with those around us and so to have poems that address that issue in an easy manner is what people want to read. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" paints a picture that is easy to understand and in some cases, easy to identify with. Who can count on their fingers the number of people around them who have gone through similar feelings to the knight? Certainly I cannot.

The group of people I know write poems that are meant to be worn delicately, but don't take that to mean the poems themselves are delicate. Like I said, the issue with fashion poetics is that it's not about mass consumption but rather about the exploration of language and culture through poetic means. Ultimately, this is what fashion is about to, but don't let the stitching get in the way of a complex design.

The fashion poetics metaphor isn't the best, I know, but it does help me illustrate what I'm beginning to understand about a poetry counterpublic. My hope is to work on this in the future with some further thinking and research. I'm not necessarily sure where to begin, but since this is, so far, an individual pursuit and not yet an academic one, I guess I'm on my own time.

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