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Canonizing the 60's
by Eliot Weinberger

At the forthcoming conference on "North American" poetry of the 1960's at
the University of Maine in Orono, nearly 200 academic papers will be
delivered. It is thus the first reliable indication of how the academy--or
at least the progressive/experimental poetry wing of the academy--will be
canonizing the period.

[Note: North America, as defined by Orono, consists of the USA and Canada,
and not Mexico and the Caribbean.]

According to the Oronists, there were 151 US poets in the 1960's who are
now worthy of study. 27 are the subjects of multiple papers.
The Most Significant Poets of the 60's:
Duncan (9 papers)
Baraka, Zukofsky (7 each)
Creeley, Levertov, Oppen (6 each)
Ashbery, Ginsberg, Ron Johnson (5 each)
Plath (4)
Berryman, Bishop, Bronk, DiPrima, Guest, Lowell, Niedecker, Spicer,
Wieners, Jay Wright (3 each)
Dorn, L. Hughes, Pound, Rukeyser, Scalapino, Sexton, Whalen (2 each)
[Pedantic note: Leslie Scalapino's first magazine publication was in 1973,
first book in 1976.]
124 poets are the subject of one paper each. They range from establishment
figures (Snodgrass, Dickey, Jarrell) to avant-gardists (Antin, Samperi, R.
Waldrop) to poets who were barely published at the time (K. Fraser, F.
Howe, Bromige) to pop stars (Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Leonore Kandel) to
forgotten figures (Ruth Weiss, Judith Johnson, Robert Lax, Frederick
Eckman) to micro-press regulars( d.a. levy, Doug Blazek).
Significant poets of the 60's now apparently of little interest:
Berrigan, Blackburn, Eigner, Olson, Rexroth, Schuyler, Snyder (1 paper each)
Some significant (or highly visible) poets of the 60's now apparently of no
interest at all:
Corman, Corso, Eshleman, Everson, Ferlinghetti, Giorno, HD, Robert Kelly,
Koch, Mac Low, McClure, Merton, Padgett, Margaret Randall, Reznikoff,
Rothenberg, Ed Sanders, Schwerner, Sorrentino, Tarn, Lew Welch, J. Williams
(No papers)
The 60's establishment as viewed by the Oronists:
Ammons, Berryman, Bishop, Dickey, Ramon Guthrie, Jarrell, Lowell, Plath,
Rich, Roethke, Sexton, Snodgrass, Charles Wright (1-4 papers each)
[Pedantic note: Charles Wright's first book published in 1970.]
Bly, Hecht, Hollander, R. Howard, Hugo, X.J. Kennedy, Kinnell, Kizer,
Kunitz, Levine, Logan, Merrill, Merwin, Nemerov, Simic, Simpson, Strand,
Swenson, R. P Warren, James Wright, etc (No papers)
Of considerable interest:
--the Black Arts movement
--the 60's as dress rehearsal for feminism, cultural identity, gay
liberation, and language poetry
-pop art & camp
Of little or absolutely no interest:
--the Vietnam War and the poets' response to it
--60's radical politics in general (with the exception of French situationism)
--communalism, back to the land movements, environmentalism
--hallucinogens, occultism
--ethnopoetics, anthropology, Native Americans
--the poetry and poets associated with Caterpillar magazine
--internationalism, the discovery of Latin American and Eastern European
poetries, and the translation boom (with the exception of Zukofsky's
-Eastern philosophy & religion
-Norman O. Brown, Lvi-Strauss, Abbie Hoffman, Marcuse, Nixon, McLuhan,
Alan Watts, Che, Mircea Eliade, Mao Zedong, all novelists, all rock stars &
lyricists (except Dylan), all r & b stars & lyricists, all foreign &
Hollywood film directors, etc etc
-the 60's as the last period when poetry was consciously written as part
of a social/political/artistic milieu
--the 60's as the last period before US poetry moved wholesale into the
academy (or that a conference such as this would have once been
unimaginable, except by Paul Krassner)
Best title of scheduled paper:
"The Dream Life of Ms. Dog: Anne Sexton and Walter Mitty."

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