Liam Guilar's Reviews > The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition

The Dance of the Intellect by Marjorie Perloff
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Aug 24, 12

bookshelves: criticism-and-theory


Perloff is a fine critic who has been a strong advocate for types of poetry that need advocates. Anyone interested in modern poetry should read her. I have learnt much from reading her books, but after awhile her tendency to make statements like this is just irritating.

Note the characteristic, “indeed shouldn’t”.

“When story reappears in postmodern poetry it is no longer the full-fledged mythos of Aristotle..the ‘specific syntactic shape’ Robert Scholes spoke of-but a point of reference, a way of alluding, a source –as we shall see in the case of Edward Dorn’s Slinger -of parody. To tell a story is to find a way-sometimes the only way-of knowing one’s world. But since, in the view of many of our poets, as in the view of comparable fiction writers, the world just doesn’t –indeed shouldn’t-make sense, the gnosis which is narration remains fragmentary.(161)'

It's interesting to juxtapose that quote against one by Freud, qtd by Peter Brooks:

The stories told by neurotic patients "may be compared to an unnavigable river whose stream is at one moment choked by masses of rock and at another divided and lost among shallows and sandbanks".

Perloff's dislike of the standard lyric is a constant throughout her writing and eventually becomes tedious. The existence of bad and bland lyric poems doesn't invalidate the lyric. This book was published in 1985 when she was confidently predicting:

“...the hall marks of the later modernist lyric will become less prevalent as our conceptions of our relation of self to world become more closely adjusted to the phenomenology of the present. In understanding that present, a narrative that is not primarily autobiographical will once again be with us, but it will be a narrative fragmented, dislocated and often quite literally non-sensical”, (169)

The lyric is still with us, still the dominant poetic form, but she was at least correct about the non sensical non narrated non narrative narrative of the post modern long poem with its "weak narrativity".
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