I’ve been reading Ron Silliman’s blog comments about WS Merwin and the school of quietude (SOQ) lately, and doing some searching around the Webs for more SOQ info and still can’t quite get a handle on what the SOQ is except that apparently I read a lot of poets that belong to that illustrious club.
Silliman seems to have a grudge–maybe deserved–against some poets, poets I think he would characterize as establishment poets, perhaps status quo poets. I tend to think the words poet and establishment rarely make sense in the same sentence.
One of the commentors on Silliman’s post responded, very reasonably I think: “I am so eternally annoyed by the quietude self-invention: it is the opposite of embracing – it is dismissive, and without cause. Beyond that, it reeks of sour grapes, and in doing so does not help its own cause.
To the best I can surmise, the SOQ (yes, a term Silliman invented as dismissive of poets he doesn’t like) refers to anyone who doesn’t write in an experimental fashion akin to the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets. James Wright, C.K. Williams, Robert Bly, Robert Lowell, Phillip Levine and Galway Kinnell I think all fall into the SOQ camp. Probably also Jack Gilbert, Hayden Carruth, David Bottom … most definitely Mark Jarman (I love much of Questions for Ecclesiastes). People who don’t fit into the SOQ–I’d guess John Ashberry, Charles Olson, Luis Zukofsky, maybe Robert Peters, Theodore Enslin (who selected me for an award years ago), Rae Armantrout, George Oppen… I admit these are mostly poets I don’t frequently turn to.
So the SOQ has a different sense of craft, different approach to image and line use, different reference to history? I’ve no idea. Galway Kinnell and Robert Lowell and Robert Bly are very different poets, but I suppose they’re more alike to each other than to Rae Armantrout or Leslie Scalapino. At least they’re not Rod McKuen.
Here’s another good discussion on the subject by Allen Taylor.