from An Interview with Joan Houlihan in Doug Holder's Blog
DH: You have written a number of essays lamenting about the lack of accessibility in poetry today. Do you think this is a major problem?To quote the Big Lebowski (vaguely):
JH: Oh yes. It’s a scary trend from my point of view. I like eclecticism in poetry. But the whole school that started the “Deconstruction” and the “Language” poets in the 70’s, has evolved into a favorite mode of younger poets. I find it moving away from what I find valuable about poetry: meaning, humanity, and enlarging your sense of being in the world. There seems to be a huge intolerance from the “post-avant” community. It’s almost fanaticism. It has a political ethic to it. I’ve been called right wing because I don’t believe in that kind of poetry.
DH: In another essay you characterize the new avant-garde as the “new senility” trend in poetry.
JH: A lot of my essays have humor. This is tinged with some humor of course. To be honest, a lot of members of that school were upset with my use of the words dementia and senility. The major offense for these people was around me calling them on their lack of a “there,” there. A lot of people went after me in a strange way. The people at “Fence” magazine were quite incensed. I don’t attack poets, but I do attack poems. There is a distinction. They attacked me personally. They literally called me an idiot. Anyone who put my name in Google two years ago would come up with: “Joan Houlihan is an idiot.” I started to think this was a scary movement in poetry.
"No Joan, you're not an idiot. You're just wrong."
How can some of these poets not take it seriously when your critique of their poems completely questions their agency as poet/author?
JH in a comment on Ron Sillman's blog from April 25, 2005:
Have you really read my essays? They are often pages long, which means they say more than the two quotes you (falsely) attribute to me. You are summarizing, I guess, using your capsule summary as a way to dismiss me. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time analyzing some lines from a poem in Slope magazine by someone named Christina Mengert in one of my later essays (and was, by the way, criticized for taking it "out of context" just as Silliman has done here, and as all critics do routinely).I've italicized what I believe to be the funniest part here in light of the actual subject of some her essays (see comments on my previous post). I guess she would prefer we reorder the words of her essays to demonstrate how they don't mean anything in the first place??? I'm sorry that she's been subject to the lynch mob, but when you're as invective as she chooses to be then you've got to expect it.