My friend Michael Hennessey recently showed me a paper he had written titled "Towards a True Avant-Garde Poetics," framed with some ideas of Peter Burger’s. Let me share:
While conventional notions of the avant-garde suggest work which is groundbreaking, confrontational and even impenetrable, this panel seeks to investigate poetry and poetics which adhere to a narrower sense of the term—namely, Peter Burger’s conception of the avant-garde as work which "demand[s] that art becomes practical once again," or returns art to the praxis of everyday life. Understood this way, Burger’s avant-garde aesthetic changes the ways in which an audience interacts with art, calling for personal action, and provides new, democratized inroads to the creative process.
This reminds me of something Kaia Sand said a few years ago in an online conversation with Carol Mirakove after Mirakove asked Sand about the creation of her panel "Women in the Avant-Garde":
I chose the term "avant-garde" over "experimental" because "avant-garde" implies the social side of the work. There are a lot of ways to pitch in with an avant-garde movement––this is an inclusive frame. So many artists have shown us that if you want to extend what’s possible, you need to build the ground to walk on––and that’s collective action. Such ground is established by chapbooks, readings, meetings … If, on the other hand, one strives to be an author who works individually and is lauded and published by HarperCollins, one is striving, generally speaking, to gain acceptance from social elites who uphold established conventions. One simply succumbs.
This Kaia Sand quote is something I often cite, as I am constantly inspired by her ideas, and now I know I’ll also be quoting Hennessey and Burger just as much for the same reasons. The fortunate are those who can grasp that poetry and art are no longer held by the elite, that we are in some sense returning to a more ancient knit, creating because we are all creative. It’s our world, and our world needs no authority to dictate whether or what we create. PhillySound is a community of poets and friends with shared aesthetics, living within the Philadelphia map. An old friend from California was just telling me the other day that she intends to gather artists she knows and loves and settle on a farm to start a community. While I wish them the best of everything, I’m not interested in an excluded environment for myself, especially one based on being creative, as this world needs as many of us being as creative as possible to encourage everyone’s abilities, and to change this disintegrating world.
Here in Philadelphia there is a wealth of stimulation for poets, and we are in this world, not removed from it, and very much in this world with our poems. PhillySound is named after the vernacular Philly of Philadelphia after all. We are HERE and writing and very much alive in that, and don’t even mind when others glean off our community, even the big wigs at the ivy league schools like Penn. PENNSOUND follows PhillySound’s lead after all in name, but hey, we’re all in this together, SO WHY NOT!? Imitation is not folly. Imitation is when someone SEES a good thing, and wants to join in the party, so, I repeat, WHY NOT!?
I feel community within PhillySound and Philadelphia’s creative collective conscience. And community––in the best sense––is where, while there may be competitiveness, it’s competition which spurs its members into stronger and wider creative potentials, while leaving room for everyone to be themselves at any given moment. We’re living in a rich new world where poetry’s writing, reading, and publishing is opening up to everyone. Ezra Pound was horrified in his own time with the advancement of easier publishing, but the fear of everyone being creative is nothing more than the fear of no longer being exclusive and special. As we transition into the everywhere of art for everyone, I’m happy to do my part horrifying the ghost of Pound, living within this city of many poets, and with my friends whose poems constantly inspire and ignite!
To those unfamiliar with PhillySound, welcome! You are very welcome! Many thanks to FANZINE for this opportunity to share with you some poems by those who wake me up and keep me awake! Much gratitude!
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Jenn McCreary lives in Philadelphia where she co-edits ixnay press and works for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. She is the author of two chapbooks, errata stigmata and four o’clock pocket chiming, and of a doctrine of signatures. Her work has appeared in many publications including Combo, How2, Lungfull!, POM2, and The Tangent. Her first full-length collection, ab ovo, is forthcoming this summer from Dusie Press.
Frank Sherlock is a native Philadelphian and author of Ready-To-Eat Individual, a collaboration written with Brett Evans about New Orleans in the Year 1 A.K.(After Katrina). His recent chapbooks include Over Here, Daybook of Perversities & Main Events and Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show. He is currently conducting poetry workshops with at-risk youth to address violence and explore its alternatives.
Chris McCreary is the co-editor of ixnay press & the author of two books of poems, Dismembers and The Effacements. A recent e-chap, "The Black Book," was recently published by Scantily Clad Press.
Pattie McCarthy is the author of bk of (h)rs and Verso, both from Apogee Press. The poems included in Fanzine are from her recently completed book, Table Alphabetical of Hard Words. She teaches at Temple University and lives in Philadelphia.
Dorothea Lasky‘s first book of poems, AWE, came out in the fall of 2007 from Wave Books. She is also the author of Tourmaline (Transmission Press, 2008), The Hatmaker’s Wife (Braincase Press, 2006), Art (H_NGM_N Press, 2005) and Alphabets and Portraits (Anchorite Press, 2004). She is a graduate of the MFA program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and also has been educated at Harvard University and Washington University. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, where she is pursuing a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Cathleen Miller spends her days processing manuscript collections, which inspire her poems. Her ideas are informed by eighteenth-century script and twenty-first century disjunction. Her work explores gender and sexuality, exposure and concealment, rootedness in place and a sense of drifting displacement. She holds a master’s in creative writing from Temple, and has been published most recently in EOAGH. Her chapbook Cut and Shoot, a collaboration with Deborah Richards, was published by MAN Press.
Kevin Varrone is the author of g-point Almanac (ixnay press 2000) and g-point Almanac: id est (Instance Press, 2007). His poems have appeared in numerous journals, most recently in Big Bridge and Cross Connect. He lives and works in Philadelphia.
Ryan Eckes lives in South Philadelphia. His chapbook when i come here (Plan B Press) was recently published. Other work can be found in XConnect, Cue: A Journal of Prose Poetry, Exquisite Corpse, Pocket Myths #4: The Odyssey, and elsewhere. He has an MA in creative writing from Temple University, where he currently teaches part-time. He also hosts the Chapter & Verse reading series at the Chapterhouse Cafe in Philadelphia.
Mytili Jagannathan lives in Philadelphia and currently works at the Asian Arts Initiative. She is the author of Acts, a chapbook from Habenicht Press, and her poems have appeared in EOAGH, Rattapallax, Combo, Interlope, Mirage#4/Period[ical], and Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics. She’s given many readings across Philadelphia, as well as in New York, D.C, and San Francisco. She is the recipient of an Emerging Artist grant from the Leeway Foundation and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. "republic" and "Nineteen Nocturnal Steps in Mechanical Dawn" were previously published in Mirage #4/Period[ical]. "On Your Honor", "Documentary" and "Focus" were originally commissioned by the Rosenbach Museum as part of a project inviting poets to respond to the exhibition Enchanted Tableaus: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the Collection of Maurice Sendak.
CAConrad, the son of white trash asphyxiation, is the author of Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull, 2006), The Book of Frank (Chax, 2008), and most recently (Soma)tic Midge (FAUX, 2008). He has a monthly (Soma)tic Poetry Exercise page, and some of his poems and books can be found here.