Many people think of poetry as a hermetic art, as though poets wrote only about themselves or as if the subject of poetry were finally only poetry—its forms and traditions. Indeed much of what constitutes poetry in the lyric tradition depends on a stringently controlled point of view and aims for a timeless, intransitive utterance. Stephen Fredman’s study proposes a different perspective.
American Poetry as Transactional Art explores a salient quality of much avant-garde American poetry that has so far lacked sustained treatment: namely, its role as a transactional art. Specifically Fredman describes this role as the ways it consistently engages in conversation, talk, correspondence, going beyond the scope of its own subjects and forms—its existential interactions with the outside world. Poetry operating in this vein draws together images, ideas, practices, rituals, and verbal techniques from around the globe, and across time—not to equate them, but to establish dialogue, to invite as many guests as possible to the World Party, which Robert Duncan has called the “symposium of the whole.”
Fredman invites new readers into contemporary poetry by providing lucid and nuanced analyses of specific poems and specific interchanges between poets and their surroundings. He explores such topics as poetry’s transactions with spiritual traditions and practices over the course of the twentieth century; the impact of World War II on the poetry of Charles Olson and George Oppen; exchanges between poetry and other art forms including sculpture, performance art, and ambient music; the battle between poetry and prose in the early work of Paul Auster and in Lyn Hejinian’s My Life. The epilogue looks briefly at another crucial transactional occasion: teaching American poetry in the classroom in a way that demonstrates that it is at the center of the arts and at the heart of American culture.
List of Figures
Poetry & Spirit: Against Orthodoxy
Chapter 1. Why Mysticism in Twentieth-Century American Poetry?
Chapter 2. Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred: Transactions between the Indigenous and the Avant-Garde
Chapter 3. Judaism as Loss and the Buddhist Element in Michael Heller’s Eschaton
Poetry & Its Time: Revising Literary History
Chapter 4. “And All Now Is War”: George Oppen, Charles Olson, and Literary Generations
Chapter 5. “The Lordly and Isolate Satyrs”: Charles Olson’s Contemporaries
Chapter 6. Laurie Anderson in the Reagan Era
Poetry & the Arts: Multimedia Exchange
Chapter 7. Robert Creeley, Marisol, and Presences as Transaction Network
Chapter 8. The Language Art of David Antin’s Talk Poems
Chapter 9. Audio File Audiophile: Listening for Ambient Poetry
Poetry & Prose: Intimate Opposition
Chapter 10. Translation and Not-Understanding
Chapter 11. Paul Auster’s Solitude in the Room of the Book
Chapter 12. Lyn Hejinian Becomes a Person on Paper
Epilogue: Teaching American Poetry