In Which Mark Jarman Reveals My Secret Fascist Sympathies on Alfred Corn’s Weblog

You can read the exchange here. What I find interesting is the way culturally conservative American poets have been scrambling away from movement formalism over the last few years, acting as if the New Formalism didn't exist, as if the name itself, in Corn's formulation, was "a misnomer." Mark Jarman left a comment correcting Alfred Corn's conflation of Jarman's Reaper aesthetic in the mid-1980s with Dana Gioia's New Formalism, but by the early 1990s, Jarman is on the faculty of the West Chester Poetry Conference, founded by Dana Gioia, and making common cause with the movement. And in Jarmen was the co-editor with David Mason of Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism. Here is my response to Jarman, who had complained of the tediousness of correcting my errors and suggesting that my defense of modernism against New Formalist attacks allied me with Il Duce himself. Jarman wrote:
It is tedious to have to respond to Joseph Duemer, but I suppose I must. I did not distance myself from the New Formalism in my response to Alfred's post. I was simply trying to set the record straight on where Robert McDowell and I stood during the early 1980's, since Alfred said we were advocates for the New Formalism at that time. By the way, the dirty secret of Modernism, which Duemer seems to regard as an ultimate good, was and is fascism. For some the New Formalism was, indeed, a response to Modernism, but not necessarily a conservative one, either culturally or politically. It was a response to the sort of monolithic attitude that Duemer seems to have appointed himself to enforce.
You can just hear the schoolmarm sigh in his voice, poor fellow. I originally wrote the following as a comment in response, but decided to not post it at Corn's blog. What would be the point?
It must be a full-time job -- and tedious, too! -- for Mark Jarman to go around correcting all my pernicious misstatements in support of that bad old fascist Modernism. Because, you know, I have such tremendous power radiating out from the obscure humanities department where I teach undergraduates to honor poetry, or try to. Oh, and I'm the poetry editor for a scholarly journal, a post absolutely saturated with cultural capital and power in the world of poetry biz, where Jarman himself hasn't done so badly. Jarman's argument here comes perilously close to the "arguments" in right-wing attack dog Jonah Goldberg's recent book Liberal Fascism, which trades in innuendo and guilt by association. It goes something like this: I think the New Formalists general rejection of Modernism was excessive and reactionary; some modernists were fascist sympathizers, right wingers, etc; therefore my (modest) defense of Modernism is evidence of fascism. Guess I'll have to get busy putting my vast powers to work enforcing the monolithic fascist modernist forces of darkness. Really, mockery is the only appropriate response to Jarman's little tantrum.

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.

4 thoughts on “In Which Mark Jarman Reveals My Secret Fascist Sympathies on Alfred Corn’s Weblog”

  1. guys, it’s mostly guys, when young and horny and sublimating it, make these greatgrand plans and write manifestos. then later, farted-out, backpeddle. and they are nice guys, maybe a little nerdy, but cute w/nice little builds and sweet faces they screw-down to those attractive frowns that make them look serious. years earlier in my time, they also sported pipes. their world(s) are little corners, ill-lit finally. they become nasty, some of them. but a lot even with good retirement policies from some little nest of a college just get disappointed and are supplanted. nobody gets out of here alive. but some poems get written, some by rote and some by schedule and some just by chance by grace. hornied and prostrate-thickened. bless us all. edward mycue

  2. The tired, tongue-clicky, testy teacher reaction always betokens a ruffled man. It’s generally best to patronise back but as briefly as possible. There’s nothing they like less than to be summarily dismissed.

  3. Well, Ed, in this case it’s more complicated than that as the guy helped me out early in my academic life, has a fair amount of standing in his part of the poetry world, has written good poems. Besides, reading your description, it sounded as much like me as him.

  4. you, know, joe (i first typed it as ‘joy’–your name–for you seem so kind, thought, honest even while in a wondering fume), my late friend the great jungian analyst justine jones fixel (her husband lawrence fixel the poet, philosopher, and parable-writer who died in 2003 was my best friend) once exploded in a distressed response to poets’s goingson (i was going to write ‘in the wild’) as i guess she meant irrational and dysfunctional as a group saying “why can’t we have poetry without poets!”. i understood feeling that way in response to pyramids–their sizes, histories, mysteries, all the kinds of possible constructions, everything about them and all the sententious tv programs about them: why can’t we just have pyramids! though in my case i’ve never seen an egyptian one–just the one near mexico city in 1962 or -3. (i suppose that counts.) edward mycue

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