A companion to poetic genre by Erik Martiny

By Erik Martiny

A spouse to Poetic Genre brings jointly over forty contributions from prime lecturers to supply severe overviews of poetic genres and their glossy diversifications.

  • Covers a wide variety of poetic cultural traditions from Britain, eire, North the US, Japan and the Caribbea
  • Summarises many genres from their earliest origins to their latest renderings
  • The merely full-length severe assortment to house glossy diversifications of poetic genres
  • Contributors comprise Bernard O’Donoghue, Stephen Burt, Jahan Ramazani, and plenty of different extraordinary students of poetry and poetics

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What, for example, gets included and shut out by “British,” “American,” or “modern”? Does “sonnet” mean any fourteen-line poem, or are specific meters and stanzas and themes also prerequisites, and what about near-sonnets? Does “elegy” include only poems of mourning for individuals or also blues poems and group laments and works of self-mourning (Ramazani)? What is the relation between historically and culturally disparate instances of each subgenre? Whether framed broadly as “poetry,” or limited to the sonnets and elegies, villanelles and aubades of a particular era and culture, definitions of genre are inherently unsettled by their porous, shifting, and uncertain boundaries.

The “transgression requires a law,” writes Tzvetan Todorov (14), and Jacques Derrida adds that a text “cannot be without or less a genre. Every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text” (65). Genre descriptors like “poem of mourning for the dead” and “fourteen-line poem”; or “patterned arrangement,” “intensity,” “distinctive style and rhythm,” and “elevated diction, figurative language, and syntactical reordering”; or “speech” made “memorable” by rhythm, figuration, sound patterning, and polysemy, should be seen not as strictly defining elegies, sonnets, and poems but as pragmatically delineating what cognitive psychologists call “schemas” and what Hans Robert Jauss terms “horizons of expectation,” which “can then be varied, extended, corrected, but also transformed, crossed out, or simply reproduced” (88).

To write poems, whether about love or nature or grief (“mainstream” lyric), or about contemporary language’s infestation by commodity discourse (Language poetry), or about the death of a jazz singer, as reported by The New York Post (Frank O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died”), is at some level to propose a different way of telling the news of our outer and inner lives. Another poet can help explore further the poetry of poetry, as measured in relation to journalism, since her poetry, like Auden’s, constantly rubs up against the news, yet might otherwise seem to share little with Auden’s and Heaney’s high literary verse.

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