Anti-anti-anti: The Deviancy of Poetry

Pocket Poet BooksThe most deviant of poets stops writing poetry, like Rimbaud, or tries to change the game, like Nicanor Parra, whose “Anti-poems” must contain the seeds of their own destruction. If poetry is already anti-language, what is an anti-poem? Deviant < Latin: “a turning out of the way.” To turn away from, as great musicians may turn away from their instruments once they feel the deviancy they introduced has been assimilated. What is assimilated is no longer anti-anything, doesn’t sound new anymore, or has become such a part of the din it has lost its resonance.

Another David Biespiel argument afoot, stirring up a postmodern poetry desert storm, right around Dylan’s 30 minute MusiCares Person of the Year acceptance speech, in which Bob explains to his critics how some do it and others may not. “But you’d better hurry up and choose which of those links you want before they all disappear.”

Poets see something the rest of us may see but call it something else. This is deviant behavior, the web of a spider on hallucinogens, but why must it also be someone’s head aflame in the fall?

We might look forward to an anti-essay, an anti-novel, an anti-comics. The ultimate anti-work can’t be read by anyone, including its author. It’s born a mystery.

Intro. to Fragments: Journals claiming they are open to all forms of poetry, but follow with, but make sure you read us to see that you fit. Fit what? Can’t deviate from deviancy, what use is it? Well, but as a group, deviating from all this other stuff. What other stuff? Other forms? Other voices, other rooms. What room? You know, the one “where the women come and go, Talking of Michelangelo.”

In grammar school, the Sisters of Mercy taught us to syllabicate antidisestablishmentarianism. At the time, we thought it the longest word in English, and we learned to say it, touch it, feel it, but no one knew what it meant. There was no Wiki where we could look it up. On a dare, Laurel Hurst stole a glance at Sister Maryquill’s desktop dictionary. He returned, his knuckles raw from a ruler, and rumored it all came down to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. By high school, Laurel would become an anti-disestablishmentprotestpoet, haunted by the postmodern “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Deluxe words. I’ll take a chocolate malt, fries in a basket, and a cheesepoem deluxe.

Since a reasonable reader’s expectation or assumption is that any given poem may confound, confuse, or obfuscate, referencing some arcane or esoteric or privileged knowledge or experience about how words or ideas work, any given poem that does not do these things might look like anti-fit to a poetry critic, but will it be an anti-poem? What would an anti-poem look like? A poem that aspires to middle class respectability will like water seek its own level. Poetry needs the middle class, but the middle class does not need poetry. If it did, we’d see Poetry next to People at the drugstore checkout stand. But we get our poetry where we find it: Fishwrap.

What would an anti-essay read like? What would an anti-photograph look like? Or an anti-speech sound like? Is the anti-form always mistaken for satire or cartoon? Aesthetic standards of the neighborhood. The propaganda of advertising. Deceitful come-ons. Pathos. What’s the point of saying something virtually everyone will agree with? Those churches are empty most of the time. Who moved my assumption?

Consider Queen Mob’s TeaHouse, where you can read movie reviews by reviewers who have not seen the movie; this is theory uncrated from the academy, both feet off the ground. Alt, alt, mea maxima alt. Eliot: “…like a patient etherized….” Toto, I don’t think we’re in the Victorian Age anymore. Irony, satire, and sarcasm tools of the modernist trade. What’s the difference between an idea and ideology?

Biespiel in his post-rant and Dylan in his address are saying something similar when it comes to a moral evaluation of the use of language as art. Dylan sums it up with the quote he references from Sam Cooke:

“Sam Cooke [Dylan said] said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, ‘Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.’ Think about that the next time you [inaudible].”


  1. “Anti-Comment” (and Uncle Comment for that matter…)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Hennessy says:

    I always [inaudible] when it’s [inaudible] [inaudible] .


    1. Joe Linker says:

      You audible use ellipsis when that happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bristlehound says:

    I do believe that to be the case Joe.
    And then there is anti- matter! I wonder if that is just not mattering?

    Determining the reality of ‘Anti’ is as if we can put a measure on the universe – it just goes on and on, around and around until we exhaust our fuel.
    Alas the truth is out there and for the moment I will boggle the start and finish of reality.B

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ashen says:

    Maybe it’s another trend that seems to have … an affection for disintegration.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Now is the winter of poetry.


  5. philipparees says:

    ‘Journals claiming they are open to all forms of poetry, but follow with, but make sure you read us to see that you fit. Fit what? ‘ This reminds me of a Mslexia poetry competition ( supposedly entered anonymously) in which the judge afterwards said that it had been a great comfort to have a fellow judge to ensure they were unlikely ( whew imagine the shame!) to miss an entry by Carol Anne Duffy- as through CAD could never write a duff poem! That finished me from ever entering another poem anywhere.

    I write different kinds of poetry for different reasons, but mostly to discover ( or express) what lies beneath and for as long as appropriate. But I have never had a poem accepted and for the very reasons you highlight- they never ‘fit’. ( except in the uncensored net when the pastiche probably condemns me as entirely unserious.) ‘Fit’ has many arenas, elastic or rigid! There are always boundaries, but perhaps the one that can never be identified is the boundary breached by not caring what it is or where it lies.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Poetry competitions like Grammy Awards. A Walk of Fame. But first you must get past the ushers. Not all that familiar with CAD, but love the idea of a “duff poem!” Phillippa, you must write a poem titled “Duff Poem!” But your “different reasons” is right on, and if the reason is to juxtapose what has never been brought together before, there can’t be a boundary. The award is freedom.


  6. adegrandis says:

    Paradoxum deviare – the paradox of deviancy is that eventually it returns to its starting point


    1. Joe Linker says:

      There is a time for everything, turn, turn, turn.


  7. bristlehound says:

    Anti food for anti thought , indeed.
    Such a scramble to be anti something that poetry should be included? I think not.
    Poetry is essentially naked and raw- it is the element of science and the hydrogen of water. It is as basic as Gomer Pyle and as wholesome as Apple pie. It cannot be dissected nor bisected.
    Anti poetry – anti poets are just poets short on poetry.
    This Emperor actually does have new clothes.
    Anti B


    1. Joe Linker says:

      New clothes and a new point of view. But if the clothes are truly new, are they anti-clothes?

      Liked by 1 person

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