The Sullen Art

The Sullen Art

The Sullen Art

The Sullen Art

Excerpt

Early in 1960, the idea of "The Sullen Art" as a continuing series of radio programs inquiring into the sources and future of contemporary poetry was born. I chose deliberately at that time to interview the younger poets and, inevitably, that group of poets catagorized as "new," (or sometimes and quite erroneously, as "beat"). By the end of that summer, I had recorded ten informal conversations, seven of which are printed here: Levertov, Carroll, Rothenberg, Bly, Logan, Sorrentino, and Jones, in the order of their original broadcast. The remainder were recorded later in 1960 and during 1961, and included conversations with student poets, foreign editors and traditionalists as well as with the "experimentalists."

What was "the scene" like in New York during those two years? You will find a number of references to Donald Allen anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960 (Grove Press) in these interviews. That book was then both clarifying and confusing the situation of the American poetic "underground" for the general public (which had been aware only of "Howl," On The Road and a stir in San Francisco), but it and other anthologies and magazines were helping to put new poets into public consciousness. However, even the best known, (perhaps especially the best known), of these poets wrote under a flurry of inept criticism, and are still being scourged by book reviewers, editors and mass-circulation magazines for their techniques, innovations and private lives.

Despite the adverse reviews, attempts at censorship and the sudden growth of a "beatnik" craze which threatened to absorb everyone between the ages of 15 and 45, those two years were active and exciting. Things seem to have quieted down a good deal since then.

Given the uneasy attitude of the general public, I felt and still feel it necessary to point out, as Gil Sorrentino says, "that the new poets are not a bunch of illiterate, barbaric . . .

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