2.06.2009

Inaugural Message of the Plumbline School

This blog is intended to serve as a collaborative forum for a group of practicing poets who display a genuine interest in, and serious engagement with, the aesthetic values of the "plumbline". It is meant not so much as a public platform, but rather as a vehicle for mutual learning, the refinement of ideas and techniques.

"Plumbline poetry" is provisionally defined here as poetry which exhibits a stylistic "mean between extremes" : understated, transparent, inclusive, objective. It avoids extremes of both the ponderous and the superficial; it shuns mannerism and facile ornamentation, on behalf of clarity and simplicity of presentation. It strives for mimesis rather than pantomime. On the other hand, the plumbline poet (Bard o'th' Plumbline, BP, BeeP) is not merely sober, dull, strenuously industrious. Poetry is recognized as paradoxical - as a conjunction of opposites - as old and new, experimental and traditional, funny and sad, simple and complex, personal and public, unique and common.

Here is the blog post from HG Poetics, which triggered the establishment of this blog :

"In 1864, during the grinding horror of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse battles, Lincoln was reading Macbeth. He quoted these lines to one of his aides :

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing."

I ran into this last night (reading an old book by Bruce Catton - A Stillness at Appomatox - which I'd randomly pulled down).

Fleeting thought, then : now there is a benchmark for a "school of poetry"!

How so? Actually, it goes back to something Chas. Olson once wrote, about "the middle voice". Imagine a club of poets who strenuously seek & study this middling manner. An antidote to mannerism, that. An antidote to extremes - of wheezing bloat, of anemic shallow nerviness....

This is actually a recurrent theme in my decades-long bloggology.

A middling, modest, understated manner. An unassuming, midwestern manner. What's its value? Limpid clarity, simplicity, pointed directness, efficiency... all these writerly effects put to the service of objectivity, capaciousness. An inclusive poetry of wide range, able to glom onto all kinds and levels of phenomena & discourse.

Objective in the sense of disinterested, as I mentioned yesterday : that is, capable of presenting a scene, without hectoring the reader about it one way or another. Letting the reader gradually enter the poet's trap. Because there is an understated or unspoken argument - but you have to discover it yourself. It can be ambivalent, ambiguous, duplex, many-sided. As such, it achieves its realization : a free-standing work of art, a poem."

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