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Monday, April 8, 2013


A Portland-based “Journal of Poetry of Place” offered a critique of modernism in their spring 2009 issue, which I just happened upon in my midden heap at Cloud Acre.

Editors Bill Silverly and Michael McDowell include an Afterword with each issue, and this one was entitled: “Gardener Poets.” I loved Windfall, subscribed for a year, and was only disappointed in that they limited their submissions to poets of the Pacific West Coast states. Though hardly a fault. Best to keep things regional and not try to get too big – that’s my resiliency model these days.

But I’m a gardener poet. I wish the Southern Rockies had its own Journal of Poetry of Place, or maybe it does and I just haven’t learned of it yet.

Anyway, lot of the theoretical underpinnings for the Windfall critique rest with Robert Pogue Harrison’s Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition (Univ. of Chicago, 2008).

As Harrison puts it, “Modernism found its objective correlative in the wasteland rather than the garden”.

Here’s some short excerpts from Silverly and McDowell’s Afterword … Harrison also contrasts the gardener’s perspective with the cult of consumerism that has seemed to dominate life from mid-twentieth century until now. Harrison borrows the phrase “more life” from Lionel Trilling to characterize our craving to turn the earth into “a consumerist paradise where everything is given spontaneously, without labor, suffering or husbandry”.

Then Silverly and McDowell quote Harrison directly – and I find it a quite serviceable rationale why I continue to grow 50+ varieties of potatoes in a busy public and private life… Our attempts to re-create Eden amount to an assault on creation. That is the danger of the era. Precisely because our frenzy is fundamentally aimless while remaining driven, we set ourselves goals whose main purpose is to keep the frenzy going until it consummates itself in sloth … If at present we are seeking to render the totality of the earth’s resources endlessly available, endlessly usable, endlessly disposable, it is because endless consumption is the proximate goal of a production without end … Or, better, consumption is what justifies the frenzy of production, which in turn justifies consumption, the entire cycle serving more to keep us busy than to satisfy our real needs

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