Thank god Kirsch has spoken against Ashbery, some of whose work I love. He really has created more glittering monsters than any contemporary poet, both in his poems and in his influence on others’ poetry. I can’t say it better than Kirsch, who suggests that much of Ashbery's style amounts to amusing nonsense, and that by draining words or phrases of their usual significance, Ashbery acquires an aura of transgression. It’s this that seduces so many of the young. Both in the community of writers and that of editors.
I like C.D. Wright but I agree that there is a disregard for non-poets as readers implied in her work. Perhaps the failure of contemporary poetry to attract a readership of non-poets (with the exception of a few, probably, like Billy Collins though who can know?) has to do with this eschewing of directness, even simplicity. I must sound like a totalitarian leader calling for Socialist Realism, inveighing against the decadent movements of cubism and surrealism. I’m actually just trying to point out that maybe there’s a reason the readership of poetry might be lower than in previous years.
Charles Mingus said complexity is easy, simplicity is difficult.
Yes these questions are quite broad, but honestly it’s the broad questions about this topic that engage me most. I don’t give a fuck about soft surrealism. I will say that I don’t believe most people think in as fragmented a manner as Leopold Bloom. Or C.D. Wright. I don’t believe Joyce's or her writing is an honest attempt to transcribe her thoughts or communicate clearly whatever her thoughts happen to be. And that poses a distinct challenge to non-poets in my opinion.
Should writers care about communicating clearly? What’s communicating clearly? What’s an idea? This interests me too, but it’s a bit esoteric, just like much contemporary poetry is.
My father argues that the most important opinions on any industry or endeavor come from laymen. They are not, he says, as likely to be seduced by meaningless nuances and sophistry.
The foremost question I ask about a poet is whether she works to be understood.