American Hybrid Poetics: Gender, Mass Culture, and Form

American Hybrid Poetics: Gender, Mass Culture, and Form

American Hybrid Poetics: Gender, Mass Culture, and Form

American Hybrid Poetics: Gender, Mass Culture, and Form

Synopsis

American Hybrid Poetics explores the ways in which hybrid poetics--a playful mixing of disparate formal and aesthetic strategies--have been the driving force in the work of a historically and culturally diverse group of women poets who are part of a robust tradition in contesting the dominant cultural order. Amy Moorman Robbins examines the ways in which five poets--Gertrude Stein, Laura Mullen, Alice Notley, Harryette Mullen, and Claudia Rankine--use hybridity as an implicitly political strategy to interrupt mainstream American language, literary genres, and visual culture, and expose the ways in which mass culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has had a powerfully standardizing impact on the collective American imagination. By forcing encounters between incompatible traditions--consumer culture with the avant-garde, low culture forms with experimental poetics, prose poetry with linguistic subversiveness--these poets bring together radically competing ideologies and highlight their implications for lived experience. Robbins argues that it is precisely because these poets have mixed forms that their work has gone largely unnoticed by leading members and critics in experimental poetry circles.

Excerpt

This book is an analysis of the concept of hybrid poetics as it circulates in the current critical discourse surrounding contemporary American poetry and as it informs innovative work by several American women poets in particular. I argue that, far from being new, hybrid aesthetics— most frequently defined as the playful mixing of disparate formal and aesthetic strategies—have a firm foundation and a distinct history in the work of radical women poets from throughout the past century, poets who have created such mixings as part of a resistance to being fixed in any particular school or camp, sometimes (as in the case of Alice Notley) on the grounds that such camps are most often dominated by male poets. Yet even though many of these important poets are acknowledged and anthologized in the two major venues for hybrid poetics, the Norton anthology American Hybrid and Fence magazine, repeated claims to the newness of hybrid poetics decontextualizes this work and renders it in a curiously apolitical light. Indeed, I argue that the current debate raging around the politics of hybrid poetics—one part of which comprises the post-Language, “Post-Avant” community claim that hybridity is a watering down of the avant-garde in its appropriation of politically engendered forms for presumably apolitical ends—is provoked if not justified by proponents, enthusiasts, and marketers of hybrid poetics who celebrate what they claim is new on the grounds that it simply is new, altogether ignoring the history, context, and political implications of the work itself. That the avant-garde community has not looked more closely . . .

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