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.