28 January 2008

Stanley's Aboutism

"Sometime around the beginning of the new millennium, the poet George Stanley half-jokingly invented the idea of "aboutism." Among other things, aboutism proposes that a poem is or should be, after all, about something, as contrasted to the contemporary poetries of linguistic abstractionism or anecdotal significances framed in verse.
. . .
Aboutism is a reminder that art is, finally, about the world. Yet aboutism is also both a game and a parody of literary movements. In fact, were it not saved by its playful aspects, aboutism would be a slightly reactionary doctrine--though not actively retrograde, like the so-called New Formalism in poetry. But aboutism is reactionary in the sense that it rejects a lot of the outcomes of Language Poetry, if not its intent. That is, aboutism doesn't object to Language Poetry's proposal for "a self-critical poetry, minus the short-circuiting rhetoric of vatic privilege" that "might dissolve the antinomies of marginality," but rather to the often irreferential results of its program to break "the automatism of the poetic 'I'" (Bob Perelman's The Marginalization of Poetry, Princeton, 1996)."

From Stan Persky on "aboutism".


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