Racialist Rhetoric and Rita Dove’s Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry (2011)
I just read Evie Shockley’s interesting piece “Shifting the (Im)balance: Race and the Poetry Canon,” which was published last week in the Boston Review. This is from her last paragraph:
One of the gifts of twentieth-century U.S. poetics has been the series of debates about what we are to value in and about poetry, and one of the tasks of the student of poetry is to develop her own criteria for excellence, taking her cues from the values of her own cultures—inherited, encountered, or taught, as the case may be. However Dove’s criteria may differ from either Vendler’s or Perloff’s, they cannot be boiled down to a singular goal of racial inclusivity. Whatever the aesthetic question—the importance of “difficulty” to strong poetry or the relationship of lyric subjectivity to “easy” poetry—relying upon racialist rhetoric will not help us answer it.
I wholeheartedly agree.
In December 2011, I threw in my two cents about the Dove anthology in an essay at Big Other.