anthologies and the politics of exclusion

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so i havent read the anthology AMERICAN HYBRID, but am curious about all the criticism around its publication.

most recently are the following comments, posted over at francisco aragon’s blog here. the comments are from “A Poetics of Suspicion: Chicano/a Poetry and the New” (a dialogue) by J. Michael Martinez and Jordan Windholz, forthcoming in Puerto del Sol:

On a more basic level, one must have a politically and economically viable identity in order to willingly lose it, to throw it to the wind. Those that say for aesthetic reasons that identity is dead, fragmented, or passé, often have a viable identity they do not need to worry about. Being invisible or visible as a white male is quite different than being invisible or visible as a Chicano. This invisibility itself speaks to a broader symptom in the poetics of the “new.” The invisibility of identity is a symptom of a broader ideological construction: that of the exclusion of Chicana/o voices in the broader cultural hierarchy. This is not a categorical absolute. Rather, it is a fact of this particular moment in US culture. The exclusion of a representative Chicana/o and Latina/o voices (Rodrigo Toscano, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and even Juan Felipe Herrera arguably fulfill the publication and aesthetic criteria ) in American Hybrid (and other such “avantist” anthologies) is symptomatic of this broader ideological exclusion and social disparity.

The historical result is what comes to be known as “official verse culture,” “the School of Quietude,” or simply “conservative” verse is in fact a nebulous space that can only be defined in the negative, by what it is not (as is the case for “avant” traditions). More, because “innovative” poetics resist and reject any sense of singularity, the narrative lyric—a form with which many foundational Chicana/o poets identify due to its ability to affirm identity while also lineating that identity’s experience—is summarily rejected, as it smacks of old romanticism. The result is a type of political hijacking on the avant-garde’s part. On one hand, the American avant-garde aligns itself with the disenfranchised in that it too resists perceived dominant culture. On the other hand, it rejects the very forms of representation by which “minority” poets largely speak.

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puerto del sol has become quite a great publication–i saw their last issue at AWP (achiote press’ table was right across from their table) and i’m excited to get the upcoming issue–carmen gimenez smith has done a great job with the journal.

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i also want to draw your attention to oscar bermeo’s comment in the box of francisco’s blog:

Well said. I also found the “Hybrid” anthology to be lacking as well, a collection that offer a plurality of voices but instead seeks to limit the definitions of what new poetry can be.

I’m also wondering if Chicana/o and Latina/o voices are excluded from such Avant anthologies because Ethnic poetry is lumped into the reactionary category where Avant would like to consider itself ahead of current trends?

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what do you think of this unfolding discussion? i ask because i am going to be on a panel at AWP called “Hybrid Aesthetics and Its Discontents”–and i imagine this anthology will be brought up.

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One thought on “anthologies and the politics of exclusion

  1. Hm, still sorting this out and may blog about it soon if I have time. Reminds me of something Joel Brouwer wrote on the Poetry Foundation blog – in a comment not a post – about how some/many of his students are attracted to language poetry and avant garde poetries, for purely aesthetic reasons, and not for political reasons. So that's one big thing: the disconnect *manufactured* btwn poetic and political concerns. I tend to wonder though, if this means avant garde poetries are being taught in a flawed way (i.e. educators stripping the poetries of their political significance) OR if it's the students doing this in their reception of the texts.

    Now, in terms of that "narrative lyric," I have a question: does that meandering Billy Collins style poetry that always starts with the I, meandering through some mundane thing and into a profound realization – does this qualify as the narrative lyric? If so, then I think of this more of a mainstream poetry phenomenon rather than something predominantly poet of color.

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