Poetic culture: contemporary American poetry between community and institution
The study of poetry can move simultaneously in two directions that are, or at least often appear to be, polar opposites: the aesthetic and the sociological. Yet the question that is at the center of much recent debate concerning the state of contemporary American poetry is one that cannot easily be answered by either aesthetics or sociology alone: What contribution does contemporary American poetry make to contemporary American culture?In Poetic Culture, Christopher Beach questions the cultural significance of poetry, both as a canonical system and as a contemporary practice. By analyzing issues such as poetry's loss of audience, the "anthology wars" of the 1950s and early 1960s, the academic and institutional orientation of current poetry, the Poetry Slam scene, and the efforts to use television as a medium for presenting poetry to a wider audience, Beach presents a sociocultural framework that is fundamental to an understanding of the poetic medium. While calling for new critical methods that allow us to examine poetry beyond the limits of the accepted contemporary canon, and beyond the terms in which canonical poetry is generally discussed and evaluated, Beach also makes a compelling case for poetry and its continued vitality both as an aesthetic form and as a site for the creation of community and value.