A work in which a noted critic addresses the problem of silence in contemporary experimental poetry. Silence, as Susan M Schultz argues, is an intellectual and aesthetic force, largely unacknowledged, that is a characteristic feature of much avant-garde poetry, from Hart Crane to Susan Howe; a strategy deployed by various poetic, academic, and aesthetic partisans in efforts to quell competing discourse; and also a potent aesthetic strategy in itself. In a collection of case studies, Schultz examines specific incidents of silence and the impasses it creates in the poetic and academic landscape. She looks at the issue of professionalism, in both poetic practice and the academy, which has become the caretaker of much of modern and contemporary poetry and their competing values. She explores clothing and fashion as central metaphors for this professionalism (what are the 'outfits' and intellectual fashions of the day?), especially the metaphor of language as clothing in the poetry of Laura Riding, Charles Bernstein, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Schultz further explores the problem of formalism in the work of Riding and Crane, whose extremity in experimentation led to their silencing by the poetic establishment, a problem later overcome by poets such as John Ashbery and Bernstein. And she examines silence as an aesthetic strategy in itself, particularly in the work of Howe, who wrestles with the Puritan legacy of male ""pro-fessors"" in the clergy ministering to female ""con-fessors."" The result is an extended meditation on the precarious balance among competing forces - formalism, professionalism, gender, and voice - in understanding and liberating poetic discourse from the realms of silence and the impasses it creates.
Susan M. Schultz is Professor of English at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and Publisher of the literary press Tinfish which specializes in experimental poetry from the Pacific. Editor of The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry, her own work has appeared in An Anthology of New American Poets and three collections, most recently And Then Something Happened.