Spicer Versus Berryman

Why does Jack Spicer get included in the post-avant canon, but not John Berryman? Both are metrical masters who dramatize the self in extremis. The inclusion / exclusion is political & cultural, not literary. The notion of the post-avant is just another version of a discredited identity politics. Of course: I realize that Berryman worked from the academic side of the Beat / Academic divide of 1950s American poetry, while Spicer worked the anti-academic side of the fence. Even as an undergraduate in 1969, though, I was reading from both streams. That is, I never quite got the distinctions that my elders were so obsessed with during the Anthology Wars.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “Spicer Versus Berryman”


    New and forgotten birds
    dissatisfied with being
    outside the window come back
    it’s still going on in disgust
    in crumbs to be blown
    feeder song
    custodian of sound
    horsing around warm
    free and dying poem
    you have nine minutes left to be
    pure in before they get us
    come back first
    ghost notes he sang
    butterflies in all our bodies.

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