“Constructivist aesthetics can develop a variety of voices and can make us keenly aware of the dangerous indulgences these voices elicit, but it cannot readily have these voices form and maintain sympathies and commitments directly pursuing improved social conditions.  […]

“[C]onstructivist models of expression now seemed incompatible with the rhetorical stances necessary for convincing others that in fact something might be done to increase social justice.  The modernists’ distrust of concepts and images, indeed their distrust of any medium not grounded in actual sensation, prevented any direct alignment of art with the sympathies necessary for social progress” (8).

Excerpted from Charles Altieri’s The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry

Did Altieri just call the (early) modernists lazy?  Possibly not, but it’s an intriguing statement nonetheless.  I think of poetry as a social good, but the (modernist) movement away from instructive poetizing and poetic moralizing seems to have deadened (somewhat?) (??) its capacity for social change.  Odd, but this is just the idea I was waiting for, today.  I want to know how to usher social change with poetry, and it seems this early modernist rubric of pure expressionism demonstrably failed.

After the modernists, I’ll be heading into post-modern poetry.  Already I’m recognizing the incredibly perceptive social consciousness of contemporary stuff I’ve been reading — Wright, Howe, Hirschfield, Milosz, Swir.  What does that consciousness produce, though?

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