Conventions

To call an author—especially a poet—conventional is, usually, an insult. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Modernism taught us to prize poets who seemed sui generis, reinventing whatever they used. Yet even those poets—even Gertrude Stein, never mind Yeats—encountered, and learned, and passed on complex conventions, if not from older poetry then from other parts of language and culture. No artist can throw out every convention at once. To learn to enjoy a poet, and to think we understand what a poet is doing, is to learn to understand that poet’s conventions: to see what’s new, and what’s changed, in poets who seem (at first) to repeat themselves, and to recognize patterns, repetitions, inheritance in work that seems alien, chaotic, or all too new.

From Stephen Burt’s review of recent collections by five poets, from The Yale ReviewThe Wynona Stone Poems, by Caki Wilkinson,  Cold Genius, by Aaron Kunin,  Soul in Space, by Noelle Kokot,  The Night We’re Not Sleeping In, by Sean Bishop, and  Kingsize, Mette Moestrup. More

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