Modern History 1900-2011

This section devoted to Modern History focuses mostly on modern literature from about 1900 to the first years of the 21st century.
  Readers who want to read my comments on modern history need to go to that section at this site.  When this site was designed it proved impossible for the designers to give it the title: Modern Literature.  I hope to remedy this problem ASAP. Modern Literature has several strands. They are as follows:

1. Modernist poetry

Modernist poetry is a mode of writing characterised by technical innovation in the mode of versification (sometimes referred to as free verse) and by the dislocation of the 'I' of the poet as a means of subverting the notion of an unproblematic poetic 'self' directly addressing an equally unproblematic ideal reader or audience. In English, it is generally considered to have emerged in the early years of the 20th century. These two facets of modernist poetry are intimately connected with each other. The dislocation of the authorial presence is achieved through the application of such techniques as collage, found poetry, visual poetry, the juxtaposition of apparently unconnected materials, etc. In the best examples of modernist writing, these techniques are used not for their own sake but to open up questions in the mind of the reader.

Modernist poetry in English is often viewed as an American phenomenon in origin, with leading exponents including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, H.D., and Louis Zukofsky, but there were a number of important British modernist poets, including David Jones, Hugh MacDiarmid, Mina Loy, and Basil Bunting. The influence of modernism can be seen in such later poetic groups and movements as the Objectivists, the Beat generation, the Black Mountain poets, the deep image group, the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets and the British Poetry Revival.

Some of the poetry sites at which my poetry and my discussion of poetry in relation to modern literature(1900 to 2011) is found are as follows:



If readers click on my photo on the site below, then on the word 'statistics', and then on the words "Find all posts by Ron Price", they will gain access to dozens of my pieces of writing on modern literature.



Modernist prose

2. Modernist Prose

The Modernist form of prose began from the styles of writing popular in the mid-to-late 19th century: The nonsense books of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll were one influence. Another was the dark gothic brooding of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Dostoyevski. These tendencies toward rebellious nonsense and morose introspection were, to some extent, reactions against the science and positivism of the Victorian era mindset. At the same time, however, science continued to influence writers to adopt a spirit of experimentalism.  In 1902 Joseph Conrad published Heart of Darkness, which threw representations of civilised society into sharp contrast with representations of the jungle and played both of them in relation to the human heart and soul.

In the first half of the 20th century writers such as Franz Kafka and James Joyce experimented with dislocations of conventional wisdom in their creations of distorted characters, locations and narrative styles. Literary experiments in form, matching those taking place in modernist painting and sculpture of the same period, challenged the reader to re-examine and deconstruct preconceptions about the world. Bertholt Brecht created modernist theatrical productions according to his theory of the alienation effect which was supposed to make the audience think and feel in new and critical ways by removing comfortable assumptions and not permitting the narrative to appear too much like reality.

Below readers will find some of my posts on the internet on the above two categories of modern literature:




(Click on the word 'Statistics' and then on the words "Find all posts by Ron Price" to access some 150 entries)


3. Structuralism, Deconstruction, Poststructuralism

4. Postmodernism and Post-Colonialism


I write what follows in the first month of my retirement from FT teaching, a career I began in 1967. It is a reflection in many ways on some of the sociological theory and literary criticism I have been reading in recent years.......One way of looking at one’s life, a way that could be labelled the post-structuralist, postmodernist, deconstructionist moment, is seeing one’s life is a product of language, of the text. Any attempt at a unitary identity and personality is an error. The reality of this self is discontinuity, unknowable in its variations, unrecoverable. All there is is “writing.” The reader & the writer are situated in a perpetual present flooded with signifiers from the past. To read my "text" readers need to access my autobiography, found as it is across several genres of writing, in terms of the strategies I convey, the stories I tell, the analysis in which I engage.  This “text” is the narrative of my experience and recurring meanings that are found herein, meanings that speak to the person-centered bias of our culture which is instilled in each of us.

For the Baha’i, for this Baha’i, there is also the institution-centred, ideologically-centred, bias that is also present in my autobiographical text, however postmodernist is my view. As the French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas, Michel Foucault(1926-1984), puts it my ‘I’ “derives its identity from its involvement in a system of signification.”  This system is the legacy of the writings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah and it is best approached as a system whose contemporary trustee is the Universal House of Justice. For me, autobiography is a way of asserting continuities in a discontinuous world; it is the story of the clarification, the changing colouration, intensity, expression, mo
de, manner and style of my commitment. For, no matter how I might write about my life, in the end it is my life that is the achievement, or the failure. At best this writing is but a part of the overall spiritual pilgrimage that it recounts and so much more that can not be put into words.-Ron Price with thanks to several articles on postmodernism, post-structuralism and deconstructionism in my Sociology for Human Service Workers Notes, Volume 7.

Perhaps this poetic autobiography
has been written to induce change,
as much as to record what has happened.
Structured around turning points
of vocational and spiritual choice

Ron Price
25 April 1999

5. Hypertext fiction and 21st century in literature

There will be, indeed, there already is, many who read my writing in its several genres and find it not to their taste. And I am reminded of what one writer said of T.S. Eliot and his poem The Wasteland, perhaps the most famous poem of the twentieth century. That poem, The Wasteland, this author wrote “was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life." What a reader gets from a work is quite an idiosyncratic reality. It is something I have little control over once I have let loose my work. In the end a writer must please himself. the great historian Edward Gibbon became an autobiographer for the same reason he became a historian: to see a pattern, a plan in what might appear from a distance to be a welter of haphazard, chaotic or contradictory experience. I have done the same. I do not expect my readers to see the same pattern.-Ron Price with thanks to L. Martz, editor, The Author In His Work, Yale UP, London, 1978, p.325.



Choreography is a term used for the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing.” A choreographer is one who creates choreographies. This seemed an appropriate term for what I am doing in this series of interviews. I am arranging a dance of words, a movement of my words in response to specific questions raised not by others, but by myself. The questions could be raised by others and, because others could be asking these questions, I have riased them on their behalf in a series of simulated interviews of which this is one. Generally, the interviews are about what I have been doing with words in my poetry. Some readers coming across this technique that I use, this simulated interview technique, for the first time are a little uncomfortable with it since they are used to interviews taking place in a range of traditional formats.

I am writing this introduction here mainly in response to those who find this method of mine, this simulated interview process, dishonest, pretentious and simply a form of blowing my own horn or some similar pejorative term of castigation. I don’t think I can persuade some of my readers, some critics as such readers are often called, as to the appropriateness, the value, the pertinence of what I am doing. Others, of course, I can persuade as to the value of this exercise. These others hardly need convincing. Most people will never read the interview anyway due to lack of interest in poetry, in what I write or, indeed, due to one of a host of other reasons the main reason of which is the sheer number of people on earth and the sheer quantity of print and electronic media.

I have read dozens of interviews over the years and learned a great deal about the writing process, about how individual writers go about doing their trade and performing their skill, about how they say what they want to say and what they don’t want to say. I have never read an interview with a poet who is also a Baha’i and I would have found it invaluable as an aspiring poet and writer at some time back in the last fifty years years(1961 to 2011) during which writing poetry became an increasingly common occurrence in my life, a familiar part of the way I used my leisure-time, especially as I acquired more leisure-time in the last dozen years, 1999 to 2011, after I retired from FT employment. For this reason, as well as the utility of the interview-form in clarifying to myself what I am trying to do in my prose and poetry, I have continued these mock-interviews, these simulations, these pieces of literary dramaturgy.  This particular interview began as the last in the series of interviews, at least in the in package of poetry I had been sending to the Baha’i World Centre Library(BWCL) in celebration of the Mt. Carmel Project. But this same interview has continued into the present, that is, August 2011.

Interviewer: (I)

Did you plan to stop sending poetry to the Baha’i World Centre Library(BWCL) when the Arc Project on Mt. Carmel was completed in 2001?

Price: (P)

My plans regarding sending poetry to the BWCL changed from time to time during the eight years, 1992 to 2000. When the Arc Project was completed in 2001 I had sent all my poetry from 1992 to 2001. I had also sent a retrospective booklet for the years 1987 to 1992, entitled Warm-Up: The Arcade. The poetry I wrote before April 1987, when the Arc Project began, and as far back as 1980; and the poetry I planned to write after May of 2001, the official opening of that Project, I did not intend to send to the Bahá'í World Centre Library in Haifa Israel.  I sent only those 14 years of poetic output in celebration of the 14 years work in constructing what some now call The Hanging Gardens.  There are now several terms for the architectural embellishments and various horticultural beautification projects at the BWC.

I: Poetry, like much of art, is a solitary experience as well as a community experience. We have talked of this before in this series of interviews. Could you add a comment or two on this theme in your poetry, a pervasive theme, I might add.

P: Yes it is, as you say, a pervasive theme in my work. I think that, rather than add yet more words to a theme I have already expatiated on, I will refer you to a poem in the last booklet of poetry I sent to the Baha'i World Centre.  I’ll quote it here and the long preamble that I wrote after reading a book called Shakespeare and the Solitary Man. I wrote this piece just yesterday, that isd, 13 May 2000.
I have written a book about the poetry of Roger White(1929-1993) devoting a chapter to his work on the American poet Emily Dickinson(1830-1886). Go to this link to read that chapter:http://bahai-library.com/price_poetry_roger_white&chapter=9


The individual can be defined from within, in terms of privacy, self-sufficiency, isolation from society, the via contemplativa, the cultivation of the inner life, the intellectual side of life and the avoidance of extremes of sociability or of even a moderate sociability. This definition can be seen in moral or religious terms. The individual can also be defined from without, as part of a greater whole, in terms of mutual support and individual virtue as measured by working with others, duty, the via activa.

The individual seems endowed with a certain disposition, a certain temperamental inclination; he has a bent formed by habit or training. For still others the disposition is mixed, the bent varied.  For all of us, it would seem, we incline both ways, private and public, in varying measures. Our indispositions to appear in public or to be private; our aspirations toward self and/or public definition evoke both admiration and praise on the one hand and criticism and condemnation on the other—our own and the community’s. I have been addicted, at varying times, to contemplation rather than conversation, to solitariness rather than society, to the studious life, to a certain melancholy humour, to myself alone, to a dominance of the life of the mind over the social and external realities, to the complexity of the inner life, perhaps due to the inadequacy of the public images I see or my own inadequacy; or perhaps due to a dissatisfaction with my community experience or my fatigue and frustration, my ennui and ill-health. Perhaps, too, much of my temperamental disinclination to sociability, at least at this 3rd millennium was about to open, was due to my deep immersion in the social, the public, the world of people, for so many years. "Excess of speech," Baha'u'llah writes, "is a deadly poison."

I have wavered at times from positions of solitariness and aloneness or positions of excessive sociability. There have also been times when my disposition was toward an aggressive unsociableness. There were many reasons for this which I won’t go into here. I came to realise the necessity of a social contract, the imprisoning nature of my own perspective, the dangers of withdrawing from the community and from preoccupation with self. I came to experience, to see, the possibility of an inner death and of a hollowness and futility that could result from, that could become associated with, solipsism and the meaninglessness of the isolated atom divorced from the whole, the group.   It is better not to define oneself by an egotism and pride, by an overvaluing of oneself, by towering alone over other men, thus creating an antagonism between oneself and society.   Cultivating a degree of self-criticism, avoiding excessive—indeed--any offensiveness, if one can and the self-satisfaction of “I am,” of “I, me and mine,” as I have often heard it expressed, are all important. -Ron Price with thanks to Janette Dillon, Shakespeare and the Solitary Man, Rowman and Littlefield, Totowa, NJ, 1981.

No man is an island, said
John Donne. Everyman is
an island, in The Tempest(1)
and we must wend our way
from island to land mass and
back again forever in our life.

For ‘return is the essence of
the whole movement and its
final cause,’ as I try to clothe(2)
my soul and become an angel
for an instant in my life time.(3)

(1) Shakespeare
(2) A.Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol.3, p.248.
(3) Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddamat, p.437.

Ron Price
14 May 2000 to 12 August 2011
I: Back in the late 1980s The Universal House of Justice referred to a ‘solemn consciousness’ as the basis for a ‘celebratory joy’.  It seems to me you address this fascinating dichotomy in many of your poems. Would you like to comment?

P: Yes, again, I’ll refer you to a recent poem I wrote only two days ago. It addresses the tragic dimensions of Baha’i history, indeed, the history of humanity and the tragedy that is also part of the everyday experience of the ordinary person, the ordinary self. The poem is called There’s Tragedy Here.


Former Professor of Poetry at Oxford, A.C. Bradley, once wrote that in tragedy “the central feeling is the impression of waste.” There is also in tragedy a sense of sadness and mystery which is derived from this same sense of waste. In addition, there is the sense that the individual is not the ultimate power and that the ultimate power is obscure and difficult, if not impossible, to define. The world of tragedy is a world of action, a world in which thought is translated into reality.   It is a world that operates under a design that is not the individual’s.  What is achieved is not what is intended and this is often due to character failings and circumstances seemingly beyond one’s control. -Ron Price with thanks to A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, MacMillan, 1905.

There’s tragedy here:
rich, thick, unending,
spread across a century
and a half, nay.......all of
recorded history, nay....
all of homo sapiens......
sapiens’ time on earth.

The years reek of waste,
sadness and mystery in a
process that is simply beyond
us to define, to understand.....
and then there is our very real
ordinariness, our cowardice &
our sleeping soul & the struggle
for the higher life, a heroism, a
timeless wooing of the Creator
amidst false intoxication and the
never ending tension of our own
spiritual growth for 4 score & ten.(1)

(1) I have added 1 score to the normal 3 score and ten, due to the increasingly longevity in western society in the last century or more.

Ron Price
13 May 2000

I: Thank you, again. Since, as the interviewer, I symbolise the critic, the informed reader, the ordinary person who takes some pleasure in your poetry, I would like to symbolically express my appreciation on behalf of your reading public and your future public, your public which is not yet.

P: You are welcome. Since I symbolise myself in this poetic hologram, this simulated interview, which consists entirely of words and which must be reconstructed by whoever the individual is who comes across my poems and these simulated questions and answers, I hope this series of interviews, some ninety thousand words or more, will help flesh-out the background picture of this hologram and give it more clarity, more focus, more contrast and give the readers more pleasure.

I would like to emphasize as this interview comes to its close, though, that many readers will not like, enjoy or feel uplifted by what they read in my poetry. What is it about a text that makes it likeable – or not? What do readers hope to ‘get’ out of texts?  Should poetry enact a transparent transmission of meaning?   Is its task always to provide comfort, pleasure and certainty in complex and difficult times? What can and does poetry do?  I leave you, dear interviewer and reader, with these questions. There is no one answer to them. T. S. Eliot contended that poetry is ''not an expression of personality, but an escape from personality,'' and the same often holds not only for the writing of poems but for reading in general: books, articles, essays, inter alia. That is true for me.  In this 21st century there are many ways to escape from personality, to fade far away, to leave behind the weariness, the fever, and the fret of the world.

One of the strong themes in my poetry, though, is the poet as creator of unity and wholeness in the world of fragmenting values. All this writing, more than 6500 prose-poems up to the spring of 2009, all the three or four million words—that’s a guesstimation—is to help me achieve this unity and wholeness; I aim to unite quite disparate elements within my vision of life but, whether what I write helps readers achieve any of this unity and wholeness in their own lives as a result of reading my work, well, it’s over to them. The Canadian poet Abraham Klein(1909-1972), a journalist, novelist, short story writer, and lawyer---noted in the very year I was born, 1944, in his description of the poetry of A.J. M. Smith(1902-1980): "he has taken for his themes the grand verities and not the minuscule ephemera." I think I do both. Smith was a Canadian poet and anthologist. He was a prominent member of a group of Montreal poets.

I: Do you plan to write any really long poems, any long poem?

P: I did plan to write a long poem, spread out over dozens maybe hundreds of pages but, thusfar, this has not eventuated.  I’ve made a start but the poem has only got to thirty or forty pages. I see my 6500 poems spread over more than 60 booklets, as several books of poetry and, in some ways, one long poem.  All of this writing tells many stories, makes thousands of points, many comments and criticisms of my life, my society and my religious community. To write about myself as I do in my explicitly autobiographical poetry, is to write about the age I live in.  I write poetry the way my sixty-six years have written me. The heart of art is narcissistic. This preoccupation with self is the essence of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s art, and I think that going beyond Rilke it the genesis of all art.  I explore this narcissism, my narcissism, in my 70,000 word account of my life experience with bipolar disorder and the several mental disabilities that have been part of my life. Readers can read that account at Baha'i Library Online or at my website in the mental health section.

I: Where would you say you are now in your poetic life?

P: You get to a certain age when you've got to say what you feel you must say.   If you have not done so before, the time has come. There are many things most of us do not say due to social convention, due to necessary courtesy, due to the fact that not everything one knows can be disclosed or is timely or, as Baha’u’llah wrote, “is suited to the ears of the hearer.” There are certain things each poet is given in a life to deal with.  He has to work these things out since they are part and parcel of his life.  He takes them from the social milieux, chews them over so to speak and puts them into literary form.  The poet Rilke(1875-1926) says somewhere: “Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life." I did not really get going as a poet until my fifties, so I have not had this problem to which Rilke aludes. Poetry is the literary version of the sound bite. The poem is Internet and e-mail friendly precisely because it has the pared-down power of words in their purest form.

One of these things for me now in my mid-sixties, is the process of aging itself and a sense of unfinished business, as the Canadian poet Gary Geddes(b. 1940-) says in the Canadian poetry online journal(1998) It’s Still Winter. Time is the poet's subject and it comes into nearly all my poems in one shape or form. The largest condition we're in and the condition that also implies one's own demise—is time.

Susan Langer(1895-1985), the American philosopher of mind and of art, the aesthetician who wrote Feeling and Form, wrote that the aim of poetry, in fact, the whole strategy of poetic prosody---is to make both the writer and reader conscious of time. Time only exists in its literary constructs, in a way, and prosody is a way of marking it, slowing us down so that we become conscious of ourselves in time. As John Berger(1926- ), the English art critic, novelist, painter and author wrote: “poetry makes language care because it renders everything intimate. There is nothing more substantial to place against the cruelty and indifference of the world as caring".

I: I like that.

P: Me too.

I: There is obviously a linkage in writing poetry between emotion and thought. Could you comment on this linkage, this relationship?

P: Certainly. That Canadian poet A.J.M. Smith whom I mentioned earlier in this interview I have come to appreciate more and more with the years for several reasons. I write a great deal of autobiographical poetry and he writes very little. He says poets should write for other poets. I like this idea for I have tried to do this as well over the years. He liked T.S. Eliot as do I. I could make many comparisons and contrasts between my philosophy of poetry and Smith’s. To Smith a poem begins in emotion but is, in the end, “the product of cerebral activity.” I could not have put this more succinctly myself. This is at the centre of how I make poetry and it answers your question quite precisely.  Poetry is a refining of the flow of language.  It's an aesthetic insight caught at the instant, the perfect pitch-pipe to establish a thought or an emotion. Whether others hear that pitch-pipe depends a little on my marketing. I do this on the internet.

Poetry is also protected by the fact that it doesn't need enormous audiences to keep going. There's something in the poetic tradition that allows it to sustain itself on elitist readers or coteries. In today's world of fractured markets or demographics, a coterie is all a poet like myself can expect. As a poet, I'm also reading for something to steal, to appropriate; I'm reading as a bandit in a stickup, as the American poet laureate back in 2001, Billy Collins once put it. On the internet, the entire literary history of humankind is now interlinked: the thought and emotion of humankind is all available for me, for all of us, if we have the technology and the interest.

Ron Price
16 May 2000
(updated: 8 September 2011)
2200 words




Margaret Atwood(1939- ) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. She graduated from high school in Toronto the year I entered my last year of primary school in Burlington just 30 miles away: 1957.  We are both war-babies or members of what some social scientists call the silent generation. Atwood was always about 5 years ahead of me since she was born at the start of the war, while I was born toward its end.

Considered by one generational descriptor as “cautious, unimaginative and withdrawn,” members of our  generation, the war-babies, grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s at a time of social conformity and, “looking for a type of rebirth.”1  They needed a cause.  Both Atwood and I only fit some aspects of this generation descriptor.  We both needed a cause. For me it became the Baha’i Faith.  Atwood is one of Canada’s most successful writers with more than a dozen volumes of poetry and 20 volumes of prose to her credit.

Atwood got her M.A. in 1962 in literature,  the same year I finished my last year of hometown baseball, entered my last year of high school and began my travelling-pioneering for the Canadian Baha’i community in the small town of Dundas Ontario.  As my teaching career developed from primary, to secondary, to post-secondary levels, and as I travelled and worked from town to town in both Canada and Australia, in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Atwood published book after book.  She was catapulted to celebrity status in 1972, the first year I left Canada and began living in Australia as an international pioneer from Canada, the year I helped establish the first elected Baha’i group in the steel-port city of Whyalla South Australia. 

Her book: Survival provided for Canadians like myself a wonderful insight into Canadian literature and into our very sense of identity.2-Ron Price with thanks to 1M. Nowak and D.T. Miller, The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, Doubleday & Co. Inc., N.Y. 1977, p.18; and 2Joyce Carol Oates, “Margaret Atwood’s Tale,” The New York Review of Books, 2 November 2006.

Yes, Margaret Atwood, I liked
your characterization and your
leitmotifs of Canadians about a
sense of survival….not triumph
or victory, like the Americans, &
not about those who made it….
but those who made-it-back……
I made it back, Margaret, from a
Baffin Island crash: ‘here I stand’
as Martin Luther said about half a
millennium ago at the outset of a
Protestant-German Reformation.1

1 Luther is sometimes quoted as saying: "Here I stand. I can do no other". Recent scholars consider the evidence for these words to be unreliable, since they were inserted before "May God help me" only in later versions of the speech and not recorded in witness accounts of the proceedings. -Richard Marius, Luther, Quartet, London, 1975, p.155.

Ron Price
8 January 2012


Ted Hughes(1930-1998) was an English poet and children's writer; he was also routinely ranked by critics as one of the best poets of his generation and Poet Laureate of England from 1984 until his death. Hughes emerged in 1957 as “the most explosive new poetic talent of the English post-war era by means of his wry poetic chronicling of the everyday and won the $5000 Galbraith prize in ’59.”(1)   I joined the Baha’i Faith in October of that year. I was 15 and I was no explosive new talent, except arguably in baseball and, then, only in the small town of Burlington and its 5000 people back then in those quiet '50s, and especially quiet in that little town and my little life.  There was no way I’d ever get into the majors, the show, as professional baseball is called in North America. I was simply not a good enough player. By September of '62 I had left baseball behind and Hughes was on his way to leaving his first wife, Sylvia Plath behind.

Some have said Hughes was responsible for the death in February of ’63 of that great young star of American poetry, Sylvia Plath—and for the suicide of Assia Wevill, his companion after Plath’s death, some six years later.  Like Plath, Assia gassed herself and Shura, her four-year-old daughter by Hughes. Hughes’ affair with Assia, begun in the summer of 1962, precipitated his separation from Plath in the autumn. Assia Wevill and her husband were subletting a flat where Hughes and Plath lived at Primrose Hill, London. Plath set up life in a new flat with the children and, in February '63, committed suicide.  Hughes and Plath had had two children by that summer of ’62: Frieda Rebecca (1960) and Nicholas Farrar (1962). Nicholas died by suicide on 16 March 2009 after battling, like his mother, depression.(2) -Ron Price with thanks to: (1)“The private man, 22 November 2007, The Economist; and (2) Wikipedia, 4 October 2011.

You said a few things about poetry in ‘62(1)
just before I started my examination studies
for university entrance and my travelling in
& for the Canadian Baha’i community....But
I was too busy & not really into poetry back
then. You said in ’71, when I was just about(2)
to begin my life in Australia, that your poetic
influences included Blake, Donne & Hopkins,
Eliot, and even Schopenhauer.......Your work, 
like mine, indeed, like everyone’s is not at all
a solitary act: the solitary genius is a myth...
such is the real collaborative nature of any
literary production, especially in this age!!!(3)

1 In a 1962 interview with London Magazine
2 In a 1971 interview with London Magazine
3 See 22/11/’07, The Economist for examples of literary collaboration: Bornstein, Rainey, Dettmar, Watt, McGann, Stillinger, inter alter. For studies of literary collaboration in addition to these see: Koestenbaum, Rabate, & Laird.



http://www.online-literature.com/forums/search(150 posts to read for interested readers)


“When the average intellectual today reflects on the artistic and cultural achievements of the last century,” Durs Grünbein(1962-) writes in “The Poem and Its Secret,” he first thinks of such names as Freud and Picasso, Stravinsky and Heisenberg, Hitchcock and Wittgenstein. It's impossible to imagine that a poet should be among them. Not a single poet from the ancestral gallery of the likes of Pessoa, Cavafy, Rilke, Yeats, Mandelstam, Valéry, Frost, and Machado will cross the mind of the historically minded thinker.  It is as if the art of poetry, of all things, were the blind spot in the cultural memory of modern man.
The point is debatable—T.S. Eliot, at least, might well appear on many people’s lists of modernist masters—but Grünbein’s basic intuition, that poetry has lost its former cultural prestige, is inarguable.  Grünbein is hailed as the most significant and successful poet to emerge from the former East Germany, and his work has been awarded many major German literary prizes, including the highest, the Georg-Büchner-Preis, which he won in 1995.

To appreciate the full extent of this decline, Grünbein suggests, we actually have to go back much further than the twentieth century—all the way to ancient Athens, where the philosopher first usurped the poet’s rightful place as chief interpreter of the world. In the golden age, he writes, wisdom was found in the works of the poets, who gave the Greeks their “heroic epics and myths of origin,” while philosophy was merely “arabesque and commentary” on the poet’s visions. With the pre-Socratics, however, philosophy “rose up” menacingly against its parent, and with Plato it committed parricide. “The beautiful and the sublime had been subordinated to the rule of ideas once and for all,” Grünbein complains, and “for over two thousand years now, every poet’s biography has witnessed to this displacement by philosophy.