"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New Sincerity Rerun

It's been awhile. Nearly two years since the blogworld was set abuzz by the New Sincerity. Let's revisit, shall we?

From August, 2005:

I'm really sort of overwhelmed by the attention the NS is getting. I had no intention of setting blogland abuzz.

You asked what the NS was doing to make weak writers stronger. We are not doing anything to make weak writers stronger. I teach college students composition and literature. In my capacity as a writing instructor, I suppose I'm making weak writers stronger, or trying, but that's separate from the NS.

We're just writing poems. And reading them. And talking about them. We aren't interested in a revolution. People die in revolutions. No more dying.

I am not interested in posterity--we all know how canons get made. I don't think poetic "worth," whatever that is, has much to do with it. I believe that the individual poets writing poems will continue to write poems that speak to themselves and their friends, and whatever audience outside their immediate circle that deems them worthy of reading. When we're dead, someone will pick our bones. Our poetry may survive or it may not. Not my concern right now. This doesn't mean we're not ambitious. It means we're not deluded by aspirations of greatness.

To speak of a poetics of humility (something I sketched some notes toward here a while back) while one finds himself a central figure in a movement he didn't really mean to create seems a little odd. Hard to be humble when everyone is talking about you. In any case, as I've stated many times before, we're not coming to your house, knocking on your door, asking to be lodged, or proclaiming victory in an imaginary war.

We're simply writing poems and writing about poems that we like, here and now. I don't pooh-pooh any particular school or movement, or dismiss any poet out of hand. If others do, then they'll have to deal with that in a way appropriate for them. Though we all wear NS jackets, they are individually tailored.

The genesis of the New Sincerity was a discussion that Andrew Mister and I had about the fact that so much of what is being written by younger poets is boring--it's sterile. There are a lot of talented writers out there, employing every tool in the traditional and avant-garde toolbox, who aren't afraid of anything except coming across as real, flawed, lovely, human beings. So much "new" poetry mightily tries to ironize itself out of feeling. After a little while, this lack of affect becomes boring.

This is why I initially made the now semi-famous (and I truly don't know why) proclamation that most contemporary poetry is boring. It is. But that's always been the case. Most new movies are boring. Most new music is boring. I guess I should add "to me." However, there is still a lot of good stuff out there. One of the central tenets of the New Sincerity is that we focus on work we enjoy rather than dismiss work we don't care for. Parallel, not perpendicular.


Joseph said...

The New Sincerity will sit on Archie Ammon's lap and take a taste of his typewriter martini!

Glenn Ingersoll said...

All the best new thinking is sincere. In this it is like all the best old thinking.