John Latta, in his blog post of today (3.5.09), offers some sharp observations, which might be useful in relation to our own concept of a "plumbline". The values reflected in the poetry of Niedecker, Reznikoff, Bunting (via Eliot Weinberger, Latta himself & others) - some of the tendencies of the "Objectivist" movement, toward a balance between style and mimesis - would be worth our while exploring, if we want to avoid re-inventing the wheel (with rustier tools than they possessed)... In fact I think some of Zukofsky's critical writings - his way of conceptualizing poetry - could be aligned, to a degree anyway, with what we are attempting to outline here.
Robert Archambeau has also written in various places about documentary, "investigative poetics" of the 90s(?) (Kristen Prevallet, & others) - a trend in poetry that also shows some affinities...
On the other hand, I don't want to identify what we're just starting to do here, with any particular tradition or stream. I'm well aware that many of my own initial February posts on this blog come across as incredibly abstract, pedantic, turgid... but in my own defense, I'd say that we are trying to establish very basic foundations for new ways of reading poetry (our own & others').
The "plumbline" represents a jumble of building blocks, corresponding to elementary structural aspects of poems - functions which are often displaced in the ongoing discourse of reviews, polemics, chit-chat & so on. When you start to distinguish between these elements - when you mediate between them, analytically, with something like a plumbline - you set them in play : you make it possible to recognize balances & relations, discords & concords, in the making/reception of different works. It becomes possible to see how a poem can be both an integral work of art, and a reflection or re-invention of experience (the non-literary).
Here's Zukofsky, from his 1931 statement on Objectivism -
"An Objective: (Optics)—The lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus. (Military use)—That which is aimed at. (Use extended to poetry)—Desire for what is objectively perfect, inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars."