Monday, April 20, 2009

In Defense of Post Avant Poetry

“Musings” for April 2, 2009

Some poets spend their time writing poetry; others divide their time between poetry and poetic theory and quite often seem to construct theory mostly as a means of justifying what they are trying to do in their own work. Over the years, it has seemed to me that those who are good at theory are not that good at poetry, while those who are good at poetry aren’t interested in spending much time justifying what they’re doing in the form of theory. Perhaps the nature of the two activities makes this bit of division unavoidable. Poetic theory is analytical and supremely rational in nature. Poetry, on the other hand, often seems much more intuitive, requiring a mind that is free from the constraints of consistent and thorough analysis and reason. For this reason, Carter Monroe is the truly exceptional poet, who has built a career of remarkable poetry and insightful theory.
Carter Monroe is a poet, novelist, philosopher, musicologist, and critic. He is the author of at least 5 collections of poetry, including The New Lost Blues and Billy Putrid, and the novel Journey. His poetry has been widely published in such journals as Rusty Truck, Dead Mule, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and The Pudding House Gang Anthology. He was also founder and editor of Rank Stranger Press, through which he helped writers like M. Scott Douglass, Ron Androla, D.B. Cox, S.A. Griffin, Jim Chandler, Jim Clark, and Pris Campbell find audiences.
Carter Monroe is one of the most important writers in the American South today, not only because of his own outstanding poetry, but also because of the guidance he has offered other poets. Hickory poet, Tim Peeler, says of him, “Carter Monroe is one of the most dedicated students of literature and language that I know. Through his own work and that of Rank Stranger Press, he has been a force in the small press for many years.”
More than anything else, I think what has enabled Monroe to reside comfortably in the worlds of theory and poetry is that unlike most theorists, he plays the game for a sheer love of the game. The ideal sportsman, Monroe doesn’t care if he wins or loses. In fact, it could be said that he often changes sides simply to make the game more interesting. In a recent email, Monroe commented on an article in which the author seemed determined to push the aesthetics of what is often called avant-garde (or more recently post-avant) poetry at the expense of Nobel Prize winning poet, Seamus Heaney. Monroe remarks, “This article reminds me of political discussions in which the sins of one candidate are compared to the sins of another in an attempt to explain who is superior by default. The politics of poetry is so "obvious" as to appear juvenile. Sometimes it seems like a series of cults in which the only common denominator is a refusal to bathe.” I have seen and heard Monroe leap just as quickly to the defense of post-avant poetry as he leaps to Heaney’s defense here. Monroe is just as comfortable writing traditionally-grounded poetry as he is writing post-avant work, and because of that he has a unique appreciation of good poetry regardless of the “school” of poetry it comes out of.
Monroe will be in Hickory on April 14 to read his work at Poetry with Morganton poet, Ted Pope. Poetry Hickory is sponsored by Main Street Rag and held at 6:30 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse on the second Tuesday of each month. The Carter Monroe poem below is reprinted from The Pudding House Gang Anthology.


What this premise holds within a recreational span
is more than a superfluous afterthought.
Too often the creamer has run dry
necessitating the use of envelopes of powder.
The residue of which, free associates without context
or placid considerations of decay.

It’s the bloodstream in all its glory.
The infrastructure of bodily highways
with charts, grafts, and some idea of gravity,
routing its way toward potential blocks,
in possession of the ability to regenerate,
and curving until the path has become arcane.

The conversationalists fall into the natural order of habit,
precluding accrued genius and the concept of money as tender.
Erstwhile, the cavities remain at varying levels
unmeasured in terms of cerebral analysis,
incapable of judging vegetables
or a digestive system that functions on its own.

The walls are temporarily combustible
shrinking and expanding in a crash-and-burn mode.
Ideas running into the blur of circles
become calmed by morning papers and sacrosanct news.
The blip of day solidifies itself (only briefly) at a standstill
waiting impatiently for the next phase of segmentation.


  1. Carter was a pleasure to listen to, for his poetry and his intellect. I can only hope to do a little of the same :)

  2. u have captured the true essence of c –
    fabulous presentation –