Coincidentally, the weekend before Mean Week, a book of essays from a poetry journal called The Reaper arrived for me at the public library.
The Reaper had it’s own little Mean Decade from 1980 to 1989, and it spent that time skewering poetry as it was and poets of note, and suggesting to readers that narrative poetry was the way out of the ever-widening gap between poetry and its readers. It helped give birth to the New Narrative movement. And New Formalism.
Fascinating stuff, really. Fussy? Maybe. But impassioned. Happily argumentative. Willing to call people out, too. Kind of like Justin’s critique of Valzhyna Mort there below this post, too, in that they dissect poems line by line and call bullshit when bullshit needs to be called—especially when the poets in their sights sail through a line without regard for accuracy.
I’ll post a few choice quotes this week. First, though, The Reaper’s Non-negotiable Demands in all their glory:
1. Take prosody off the hit list.
2. Stop calling formless writing poetry.
3. Accuracy, at all costs.
4. No emotion without narrative.
5. No more meditating on the meditation.
6. No more poems about poetry.
7. No more irresponsibility of expression.
8. Raze the House of Fashion.
9. Dismantle the Office of Translation.
10. Spring open the Jail of the Self.
Each demand is explained in the essay. I would encourage you to pick up the book to read them.
Keep in mind, also, that posting about The Reaper is not a full endorsement of their critique. On the other hand, my poet friends: fuck you, read this.