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About The Scene: How Do You Differentiate Radical Poetry from Mainstream or Establishment Poetry?

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How Do You Differentiate Radical Poetry from Mainstream or Establishment Poetry?

September 13, 2017

Who knows? I know the difference when I see it, ok? But I do see a clear distinction between radical, innovative, avant garde, experimental (or whatever label you want to use) poetry and what I usually call genteel poetry. I mean, most of the radical poets of the past are in the big canon taught in schools nowadays, so that’s no longer a distinction. I’ve taught courses on the Beat Movements a number of times.

Yes, I have great respect for genteel poetry and, again, have written about genteel poets plenty of times. And I encourage to you follow my Literary Life blog where I separate out the genteel from the radical somewhat. More than that, though, let’s read the genteel poets radically.

Generally, the distinction is most often made on the basis of the poetic tradition itself. In American literature we usually distinguish the formal, genteel, tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and his successors with that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and their successors. Obviously lines are blurred all the time and even the common dichotomy of the two traditions is often disputed.

But I am going to maintain a bold claim for poetry right now in our own time. Modern and contemporary fiction has virtually caved in to becoming capitalist cheerleaders. Even our best contemporary novelists just as our best filmmakers see their work as market driven. The true literary art forms and artists today are almost exclusively our poetry and poets and some non-market driven plays and playwrights.

Are You Developing a How to Write Poetry blog?

No no no! I just read the stuff. I don’t write it. So I cant tell you how to write it. Well, maybe one bit of advice. Don’t rhyme. Come follow The Scene by hitting the button on this page.

Paul Varner

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