Note: This post has been edited in response to Tom Morgan's comment & after re-reading his original blog post. I was irritated (see my response to Morgan in comments) & now see that I mischaracterized Morgan's intention. Tom Morgan has two posts [first, second] recently dealing with the history & cultural politics of Ron Silliman's name for poets he doesn't like, the "School of Quietude." If I were in the business of creating poetic political parties I might invent a School of Lassitude, who writeÂ a poetry of disingenuous verbal ping pong. But that just seems like a way to perpetuate more bullshit.
I don't think Morgan actually adds much to the conversation -- he is another Silliman groupie with a Buddhist spin -- but [T]he comments by Mark Granier (Lightbox) & Art Durkee (Dragoncave) (neither of whom I know) in response to his post are worth reading. [So are those by Anonymous.] Morgan begins with a standard piece of rhetoric about not wanting to split the world into binary pairs, but then proceeds to do exactly that [or appears to do so, though perhaps he is simply acknowledging that he has not reflected on the use of the term "post-avant"] while maintaining that all he wants is to "understand" his colleagues who dwell in the outer darkness. Silliman (& Morgan) use[s] the label "School of Quietude" as a cudgel to beat poets they don't he doesn't like & then deploy[s] the term "post-avant" as an honorific title for poets who descend from Language Poetry [& the Beats?]. The fact that I am suspicious of the way Morgan flies a letter from Ange Mlinko to Ron Silliman as a little banner in his first post before withdrawing his endorsement of her petulance[.] is a really classic piece of rhetorical flim-flam. It strikes me that, for a sophisticated post-modernist[s] like Silliman, this is simply a piece of political jujitsu. If one were being descriptive rather than prescriptive, one might well use "post-avant," but why not then invent a parallel neutral term, say, "post-confessional" to describe another process within American poetry. I admire a fair number of the same poets that Silliman & Morgan admire, but their deployment of the simple-minded binary terminology of "post-avant" versus "school of quietude," even if taken entirely descriptively, serves to rub out a large body of poetry. I don't accept literary criticism as erasure.
Afterthought: It strikes me that "post-avant" as a category is quite capacious & that as usually deployed is meant to include pretty much all American poetry that descends from Modernism with the special exception of poetry that descends from the so-called Confessional poets. Another way of mapping the divide is to think of the post-avants as poets who reject naturalistic description in order to foreground the play of language; that is, there is a broad epistemological assumption among the post-avants about the relationship between language & the world. I think Silliman credits Charles Bernstein with the phrase, "the turn toward language." And that is a turn away from the world. Odd that Tom Morgan, who describes himself as an eco-poet, would find himself in this camp. (And by "odd" I really just mean curious, or that it makes me curious.) Now, I am a long way from proposing a positivist notion of language: I have read Wittgenstein. But that begins to take this little fantasia of an afterthought further than I am prepared to follow this evening . . .