Monday, September 6, 2010

California Realism, or The School of Perceptual Palpability

I propose a School of Perceptual Palpability to designate a direction of poetic creativity in the modern history of American letters.

•  Following the larger tradition of literary realism, this School accepts the world without as the true of subject of poetic inspiration, and it finds meaning in the simple and direct articulation of personal experience

•  It therefore takes a more journalistic, even diaristic approach to poetry, finding it sufficient to record peak moments without formal and ideological enhancements.

•   In keeping with its origins in Tang Period China, but without any specific religious affiliation, it is extremely amenable to the practice of meditation, and, thus enabled, aspires mainly to see and to describe things exactly as they are.

•   Influenced by the discovery of Asian literature and other Asian cultural accomplishments in San Francisco after World War II, this direction in contemporary poetics arose mainly in Northern California in the work of Kenneth Rexroth, and continued on with Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, Steve Abbot and others.

•   Because it is thematically devoid of ideological positions, it represents a cross-platform approach to writing poetry, accepting therefore all personal identities.

•   Formally, it eschews the use of run-amok, endlessly self-generating  imagery and metaphor (Hart Crane, Duncan, Spicer), obscurantism, and the reduction of the poetic process to a formalist playing-around with language. Viewing one’s own life as the larger resource, it insists instead upon content, rejects grand emotions and sentimentality generally, and embraces political consciousness and humor.

•   Resisting somewhat the forced whimsicality and otherwise trivializing tendencies of the New York School, Perceptual Palpitators happily cohabitate with such Magic Realists as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

     When the poem is made it is slight and flavorless,
     A thing of derision to most everyone.
     Superior people will be pained at the flatness of the meter;
     Common people will hate the plainness of the words.

          Po Chű-I (Bai Juyi) : Illness and Idleness, transl. Arthur Waley.


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