Reading Cynthia Ozick’s piece in the Paris Review about poetry in the United States in the 1950s, I was getting caught up in the zest with which she described the heyday of Eliot, Auden, and the Beat poets, until I read this line:
“Poetry then had not yet fallen into its present slough of trivia and loss of encompassment, the herding of random images of minuscule perspective leading to a pipsqueak epiphany, a delirium of incoherence delivered, monotone upon monotone, in the cacophony of a slam.”
The shortsightedness of this characterization of the current state of poetry, particularly slam poetry, is of such magnitude that it actually undercuts my irritation before it has a chance to build. If you can’t hear meaning, feeling, terrible beauty and truth in much of the work being produced post-1950s, then the cacophony is not in the delivery; it’s in your own willful misperception.
Today’s selection, “Abortion,” by Rafael Casal, strikes me as anything but “a delirium of incoherence”: