Sunday, November 05, 2006

No Iconic Poems of the Boomer Generation of Poets?

{AP photo}
Donald Hall's own poetry series, the Eagle Pond Authors' Series at Plymouth State University (NH), billed today's presentation as Liam Rector reading from his new collection (The Executive Director of the Fallen World), to be followed by a discussion called Literary Generations. Rector's wife Tree Swenson, director of the Academy of American Poets, asked questions of the two men.

After Hall provided a number of memories of poets "of his generation" and posed them as reacting against the free verse of the modernists (a stance he said they all forsook at some point as they wrote in their own variants of free verse), he moved into recollections of meetings with T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. The Paris Review, he said, invented the contemporary author interview presented "as a play" in format, and called him into the adventure when it decided to move out to poets as well as novelists.

To Donald Hall's vision, his generation's iconic poems include Philip Levine's "They Feed They Lion." Hall asked Rector (who directs the MFA program in poetry at Bennington College and who was born in 1949, a "boomer"): "But Liam, your generation in poetry -- what have you done?"

Rector was silent a moment, then replied, "I don't think we've done that much -- there are no signature poems from this generation comparable to 'They Feed They Lion.'"

With this statement, Hall immediately agreed.

I can't agree. And I have a few candidates to offer for "signature poems": Brigit Pegeen Kelly's "The Peaceable Kingdom"; Carolyn Forché's "The Colonel"; Eric Pankey's "Reliquaries"; Martín Espada presenting "En la calle San Sebastián"; Anne Marie Macari's "Mary's Blood"; several by Mark Doty and Billy Collins; "Here, Bullet" by Brian Turner (although that may be of the next generation).

Suggestions? Arguments? Further discussion?

1 comment:

Beth Kanell said...

Interested in what an "iconic poem" might be, whether the concept is even of any use, and spirited proposals of candidate poems/poets? See Ron Silliman's poetry and poetics blog,

Coming soon: reviews of some 2006 collections of poetry.