Issue 98 |
Winter 2005-06


We live in a time of extraordinary literary riches. I believe that contemporary literature—both our poetry and our fiction—is not only healthy, but thriving. I believe the work of many of my contemporaries has been remarkably innovative, startlingly powerful, and deeply compelling. I believe that the greatest strength of American literature has been, at its source, its plurality of voices, its multitude of styles, and its consistent resistance to the coercion of what we have imagined to be prevailing literary trends. That is, we are, as writers, culturally polyvocal and stylistically independent, even arrogant. We live with either admiration or despair within those traditions we have inherited. In time, we either alter or dismiss those we most abhor. We create new alternatives and champion the writings of those we consistently envy and admire. Although I have always distrusted writers who run in packs, I welcome all literary partisanship as a gesture toward what I would call a "values clarification" in literature. However, let's be frank. We are at a time in our literature when the notion of a "poetic school" or, in fiction, a "literary trend" is an anachronism, an archaic critical artifact of times long gone by. The most compelling new poets and fiction writers today draw from a vast and wildly varied reservoir of resources. Their choices concerning "voice" and stylistic possibility (as well as their attitudes toward aesthetic, theoretical, and political urgencies) are now articulated as compelling hybridizations. We need all of our poets, all of our fiction writers. Our literature should be as various as the natural world, as rich and peculiar in its potential articulations. Let the gates of the Garden stand open; let the renaming of the world begin again.