Mark Wallace

	The question that increasingly haunts emerging avant garde 
poets is how to establish their own identity in the face of the success 
of language writing (see Perelman 125 for a variety of ways in which 
this writing has been identified, always skeptically). While the term 
language writing finally identifies a huge range of theoretical stances 
and poetic sensibilities (Perelman 126), two characteristics of 
language writing have had the most impact on avant garde writers 
emerging in the aftermath of its success: language writing's use of 
critical theory to inform its poetic practice, and its social power as a 
relatively cohesive cultural and publishing network with a proven 
ability to establish international reputations.
	It remains true that the best way to establish one's identity as 
a writer is to create a intriguing and insightful body of poetry that 
readers look for and return to. The primary issue facing emerging 
avant garde writers in establishing their identity as poets is 
therefore that which has faced any writer; the issue of how to keep 
going, to keep wanting, trying, and perhaps succeeding in creating a 
significant body of work when there are so many pressing reasons to 
give up. Over time, the acute anxiety that emerging writers feel 
regarding their own identity as poets probably will be resolved, for 
many of them, by achieving a reputation worthy of their talents. 
Whether they achieve such reputations or not (and there are plenty 
of reasons for writers to feel anxious about this, since reputation in 
the world doesn't always go to those who deserve it), the struggle for 
identity among currently emerging writers may seem, in retrospect, 
not the huge stumbling block it seems right now.
	Still, the difficulties emerging writers are having in establishing 
their own identities are real and in some cases crippling, and are 
emerging from circumstances that need to be analyzed and 
understood so that the anxieties arising from them do not become 
wholly destructive.
	Language writing's use of critical theory both as an instigation 
to poetic exploration and as a powerful defense of that exploration 
has been a crucial factor in the ability of many language writers to 
establish significant reputations. Many writers associated with the 
language writing network are powerful critics as well as insightful 
artists. Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, Susan Howe, 
Bob Perelman, Leslie Scalapino, Ron Silliman and Barrett Watten are 
only a few that come to mind. Whether they think of themselves as 
"language writers" or not (of the above group, Howe and Scalapino 
probably would most resist having the term applied to them), these 
writers have produced a body of critical work that in some cases 
rivals the significance of their poetry, although it's wrong to see that 
critical work as more powerful than the poetry itself, as many 
detractors have claimed.1
	The critical sophistication of the language writers has enabled 
them to establish their reputations by giving them the means to 
explain in precise critical terms the value of their practice. But they 
have done so at a time when, in the absence of any broad response to 
poetic innovation on the part of literary critics or "general" readers, 
the ability to explain one's poetics, to defend one's reasons for 
writing in the way that one does, has become more and more 
necessary for avant garde writers. Many emerging writers may fear 
that if they don't write critically, they will never reach a significant 
readership. While in some cases worry about the need to provide a 
critical framework may be greater than necessary, some concern 
about this problem seems justified. Although there are complex 
exceptions,2 the language writers who have established the most 
significant reputations tend also to be those who have published the 
most critical writing. This conjunction is no accident. Whatever the 
worth of their poetry, as a group the language writers have gained 
attention primarily through the power of their critical writing.
	The significantly cohesive, group-oriented publishing network 
of the language writers also represents a significant cause of concern 
for emerging writers. It is important to point out that this concern 
does not come from any closed exclusivity or elitism on the part of 
language writers and the language network; writers in that network 
have, for the most part, shown themselves to be open to the work of 
younger writers. They have offered emerging writers significant 
opportunities for publishing and discusion, and have been more 
generous in most cases than the established publishing networks of 
an earlier time were to them. But it should not be surprising, nor 
even a cause for criticism, that the main networking concerns of the 
language writers are for their own work, and perhaps for the work of 
those emerging writers which most closely resembles language 
writing. Emerging avant garde poets thus face the same issue that 
the cottage industry of innovative poetry has faced throughout the 
twentieth century; how to establish significant venues for the 
publishing and promoting of new poetry.
	Emerging writers have not been particularly successful in 
establishing their own venues. While they are responsible for some 
of this lack of success, most of the fault lies in circumstances beyond 
their control. Discussing the differences between the publishing 
circumstances of language writers and of the emerging avant garde 
will help make it possible to understand some of their key 
differences as writers.
	Language writers, at least in their initial phases, had a 
strikingly clear sense of who was and was not part of their concerns. 
As a publishing network, the range of writers that the language 
network committed itself to promoting was significantly smaller than 
the range of avant garde writers now emerging. Language writers 
tended to be located in a few major areas, primarily New York and 
San Francisco, whereas emerging avant garde writers are widely 
dispersed, just as likely to come from the Midwest as from the coasts. 
In one sense, this fact attests to the success of the language writers--
many more writers have been influenced by them than were initially 
part of their activities.
	The poetic trends to which language writers were opposed 
were also clear; not only did they reject traditional formalism and 
MFA confessionalism, clearly non-avant garde poetries, they also 
tended to reject the speech-based writing of the previous generation 
of the American avant garde, writing which became known through 
Donald Allen's anthology as "New American Poetry." These rejections 
of other poetics meant that success for the language writers could be 
achieved through highly cohesive, often narrowly self-defined 
magazines, anthologies and publishing houses (Temblor, In The 
American Tree, and Sun and Moon being fine examples of such 
venues). Such projects were carefully articulated, strongly organized, 
well distributed and highly successful. While it would be wrong to 
see these projects as ultimately too exclusive, or even in the case of 
Sun and Moon primarily language writing oriented, they nonetheless 
presented a uniquely powerful front that managed, in the space of 
little more than a decade, to establish a number of new, major 
	Emerging avant garde writers are more diffuse in their 
concerns, if only because there are so many more of them. But this 
diffuseness also comes from the ever-expanding range of poetic 
options available to them--if, as T.S. Eliot once said of past writers, 
"they are that which we know," then emerging writers have among 
their poetic influences not only work produced before and around 
the language writers but also the language writers as well. 
Furthermore, while many emerging avant garde poets continue 
language writing's rejection of all non-avant garde poetries, many 
other such writers, recognizing their own multiplicity in terms of 
poetic interests, do not feel the same compelling need to reject those 
poetries. Finally, for many emerging writers, the previous generation 
of avant garde poets--language writers and others--are also not 
figures to reject, which means that emerging avant garde writers do 
not necessarily separate themselves from previous generations of 
avant garde writers in the way the language writers often did.
	The lack of financial resources on the part of many emerging 
writers, coupled with a cultural climate viciously hostile to arts 
funding, has faced emerging writers with some rather stark economic 
realities. Although it is difficult to know the facts of a matter so hard 
to discuss and so huge in its ramifications, it is possible to argue that 
given the current financial climate, the emergence of a new avant 
garde publishing house with the power of Sun and Moon may not be 
	The effects of their particular social circumstances on the 
publishing activities of emerging avant-garde writers have been 
several. One is that the vast range of interests of emerging writers 
means that those writers, when grouped together, have much less 
clear theoretical similarity than the language writers. This often 
leads them to appear a directionless group, a criticism which Nick 
Lawrence lodges against the anthology Writing From the New Coast 
(Lawrence 151-53). Lawrence's mistaking a wide range of purposes, 
political and otherwise, for a failure to develop a singular "possibility 
of a meaningful politics" (Lawrence 152) makes clear how easy it is 
to misrecognize such a wide range of purposes as a lack of purpose, a 
misrecognition that only further adds to the sense that emerging 
writers aren't doing anything that hasn't been done before. Emerging 
avant garde publications are also just as likely to publish already 
established writers as they are to publish emerging writers, with the 
result that the work of emerging writers blends into, rather than 
stands out against, the work of their elders. And the lack of wide 
distribution for most emerging avant garde publications means that 
word about new writers doesn't always travel far.
	These several results lead to the perception that there is little 
distingiushes individual emerging avant gardists from each other and 
from their elders. To a great extent this perception is exactly 
backwards; the problem is that these writers are too distinct, too 
varied, to present the appearance of a clearly defined singular 
purpose which was precisely what enabled the language writers to 
seem unique, however much such an appearance was, in their case, 
also false. That is, the misunderstanding that made the language 
writers seem to have a singular purpose greatly helped them put 
their work forward, whereas the misunderstanding that emerging 
writers lack purpose makes them appear obscure.
	In any case, the kind of cultural environment that faces 
emerging writers as they attempt to define their practice calls for a 
slowly developing, careful articulation that at the same time it seems 
to prevent. At this writing, the results of a conscious search for a 
specific identity on the part of emerging avant garde writers have 
been at best mixed. For every careful response, there has been an 
overdetermined--in some cases a hysterical--one. But it is possible to 
make some statement about what emerging writers have in common. 
This commonality arises from, more than being imposed upon, the 
circumstances in which these writers find themselves. Reviewing the 
variety of published arguments on this topic can help that 
commonality be seen more clearly.
	Distressingly, two of the loudest claims for new avant garde 
poetries are potentially reactionary in their implications, and at 
times just plain silly. The editorial stance of the editors (primarily 
Lew Daly3) of the magazine Apex of the M promotes the exclusionary 
embracing of a poetry of ecstatic spirit that calls for "an unmediated, 
and therefore insurrectionary, love of the divine" ("State of the Art" 
6). For all their insistence on their own radicality, Daly's essays claim 
an absolute spiritual truth, and reject any writers who question that 
truth. Daly calls for a "radical transparency of language" that "resists 
the notion that we are restricted solely to slippages within language 
to frustrate its conventional usages" ("State" 7). Yet Daly's essays do 
not discuss in detail issues of poetic technique, although it may be 
possible to assume that the work presented in Apex is taken by the 
editors to display the characteristics that Daly calls for (perhaps to a 
certain extent against the will of the writers themselves--it's hard 
not to think that writers like Bernadette Mayer, Ed Dorn, and Chris 
Stroffolino, among others probably, must feel some irony at the way 
they are grouped in Apex). Rather, Daly is interested in questions of 
belief, of ecstatic spirit heavily indebted to his sense of the 
philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, with its insistence on a complex 
philosophical and spiritual relationship with the "other."
	Daly sees language writers as not only being complicitous with, 
but actually unconditionally and unself-consciously "reproducing and 
mimicking the methods and language of contemporary capitalism" 
through writing which "ultimately commits itself to the same 
anonymity, alienation, and social atomization of the subject in history 
that underlie capitalist geo-politics" ("The Contextual Imperative" 5). 
Such writing, "far from challenging, instead mimics and acquiesces to, 
the methods used for the transformation of information and 
experience in a media age" ("State" 5). Unfortunately, Daly offers no 
specific close analysis of any particular work by a language writer to 
back up his claim. This omission means that he doesn't address the 
fact that language writers see themselves as doing something 
completely different than his characterization of them suggests.
	Daly's essays are rife with contradictions, perhaps most 
painfully in the way that they do not recognize their own 
authoritarian elements. By calling for "the ecstatic" as "a pact with 
destruction" in which "we should sustain in hope and memory" the 
possibility of sacrificing "language to context, in a leap from 
textuality without end to irrevocable acts of violence against both 
self and state," Daly is calling for nothing less than religious holy war 
based on "the sacred, the erotic, and the prophetic," a holy war that 
sees poetry as an ecstatic utterance central to spiritual revolution 
("Imperative" 6-7). Despite Daly's view that such revolution calls "for 
a resistance to transcendence" ("Imperative" 6), his absolutist 
rhetoric plainly locates the value of what he's saying in some truth 
beyond mediation. Daly means such notions, in political terms, to be 
radical and not conservative; the essay displays a genuine concern 
for "justice for and vindication of the subjected" ("Imperative" 6). But 
his essays see truth as the singular possession of those who share his 
view. From within that view, Daly reduces all other poets, including 
the language writers, to one-dimensional cartoons, puffed-up 
capitalist dupes whose theories have crashed on their own lack of 
awareness. The unfortunate result of such a vast misunderstanding 
both of others and of his own motivations means that, at their worst, 
Daly's essays become an unintentional parody of the religious 
	No less absolutist, and finally no less insistent on its own 
religiousity, is the "New Synthesis" argued for by John Noto in 
Talisman #11 and supported in that issue by a small anthology of 
representative writings. Noto argues for his New Synthesis as an 
emotionally charged recuperation in which writers "are comfortable 
in the new era in which they have arisen" (Noto 184). Although Noto 
tempers his call for "a full-blown return to music and lyricism in 
poetry" by saying such poetry is "unlike traditional lyric poetry," he 
sees these new lyrical flights, which his own essay enacts, as a way 
in which "both syntactic and semantic fractioning get part of a larger whole, just as in nature seemingly 
random 'fractals' actually may be described by geometries which 
represent a complex gestalt" (Noto 188). Noto's New Synthesis writer 
is a combination of the biological and the technological, the irrational 
and the scientific, who finally overcomes and rejects all functionalist 
mechanics in the synthesis of his productions. That is, Noto's New 
Synthesis calls for a poet who has absorbed and overcome experience 
in a sort of cyber-real coherence which rises above and organizes the 
contradictions of social experience. Although it explodes traditional 
poetic categories, it is a poetry of control, mastery, and 
transcendence, however mutated, which insists on the singular 
rightness of its own poetic forms.
	Both Daly and Noto state that one goal of emerging avant garde 
writers should be a rejection of certain aspects of the language 
writers' use of critical theory--Daly in the direction of holy war and 
Noto in the direction of the writer as transcendent cyberhero. Both 
writers insist on the value of irrational ecstasy as an antidote to what 
each sees as the dead technocratic utterances of language writers and 
critical theorists, who are grouped together as part of the same 
rationalist control machine. Both writers deserve applause for certain 
of their insights, primarily for insisting that poetry is not the tool of 
scientific rationality, or solely a pawn in the game of advancing 
academic careers. Both also deserve respect for their willingness to 
take on directly the identity crisis haunting emerging avant garde 
writers. However, in fundamentally misrepresenting both language 
writing and critical theory, and in calling for a unified and partly 
reactionary rejection of the insights of postmodernism regarding the 
relation between language and transcendence, Daly and Noto finally 
do emerging writers an unintentional but great disservice--that of 
making it appear that emerging writers do not understand the 
previous generations of the avant garde, rather than engaging ways 
of incorporating, without being subservient to, the insights of those 
	A more convincing possibility for "post-language" poetries has 
been suggested by Charles Borkhuis in his essay "Land of the 
Signifieds" and his recent book of poems Proximity (Stolen Arrows). 
Thankfully, Borkhuis never argues for what he does as the sole way 
poetry should proceed; rather, he simply maps carefully one 
particular possibility. Borkhuis makes a case for exploring the 
relation between American language writing and French Surrealism 
and its descendants, which he calls Late Surrealism and Textual 
Poetry. While Surrealism "privileges the dream image over grammar 
and syntax," and language writing "does the reverse," Borkhuis sees 
both traditions as consisting primarily "of writing about objects and 
processes in language, not about 'real' things or events in the world" 
(Borkhuis 273). Both traditions enact the relation between the writer 
and the world, according to Borkhuis, but do so through writing that 
"isn't about some other experience, it is the experience" (Borkhuis 
274). Exploring the possibilities suggested by his own critical 
insights, in Proximity Borkhius presents poems that use both 
surrealist and language techniques to create a haunting and quietly 
beautiful meditation on the limits of image and language, and on the 
continued power of the metaphysical silence from which cultural 
sound emerges.
	In some comments in an article that appeared in Taproot 
Reviews, "Antslide: Recent Anthologies," Steve Evans also offers some 
useful suggestions for a "post-language" avant garde. Rather than 
settling for a collective "death of the subject," (one that, I must point 
out in contrast to Evans, seems suggested more strenuously by 
language writing theory than by its poetry), Evans promotes some 
recent experimental writing that is not afraid to risk the subjective, 
interpersonal, and emotional as part of its cultural critique. 
Contrasting a number of poets appearing in the Potes and Poets 
anthology The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets, Evans prefers 
work which implicates the author's subjectivity in its structure, or 
tries otherwise not to settle for overly self-contained and controlled 
structuralist irony "as a curative balm meant to take the sting off the 
frequently lethal contradictions of capitalist society" (Evans 15). 
Contrasting the work of Dodie Bellamy and Johanna Drucker, for 
instance, Evans writes that "Bellamy's is the riskier and more 
interesting diagnosis. Whereas Drucker eliminates the margin of 
subjectivity, Bellamy... complicates it, and in doing so identifies 
utopic potentials such as those stored in fantasy rather than 
conceding dystopia as 'all that is the case'" (Evans 15). Evans' sense of 
the "margin of subjectivity" does not imply a return to notions of the 
transcendent subject, but rather seems to suggest a notion of 
authorial subjectivity as a field of complex and specific reactions to 
specific structural problems. Unfortunately, Evans' essay does not 
develop this notion in detail.4 As a result, he seems at times to run 
the risk of lumping all "non-subjective" avant garde structuralist 
critique together. However, these problems seem more omissions 
than misunderstandings, and Evans' piece, if not quite thorough, 
nonetheless suggests a number of intriguing possibilities.
	I would like to suggest, however, another set of possibilities for 
emerging avant garde writing, one that does not call for exclusivity 
of form like Daly or Noto, or articulate a single if highly useful 
possibility in ways similar to Borkhuis or Evans. Rather, the range of 
possibilities I see for emerging avant garde writers comes exactly 
from the wild variety that has been criticized as a lack of purpose by 
Lawrence and others. Rather than seeing this variety as a failure, or 
insisting on the importance of any specific group of techniques, I 
think it is exactly this ability to explore a huge range of possibilities, 
and a willingness to accept that range, that may identify what is best 
about emerging avant garde writers. This intense multiplicity of 
poetic purposes and formal concerns that marks emerging writers as 
a generation distinct from their predecessors.
	To emerging avant garde writers, techniques developed by the 
language writers seem only one of a huge range of poetic 
possibilities. Many feel free to use techniques disavowed by language 
writers, and even more surprisingly, to use techniques sometimes 
not considered avant garde at all. Evans, for instance, although his 
argument is clearly for recontextualizing the notion of the subject, 
could be understood as trying to explore a relation between 
confessional or highly personal poetry and strucuturalist critique, 
rather than seeing the two as fundamentally in opposition. The 
formal innovations of the Beat generation and New York school also 
have significant influence on emerging writers, as have the poetics of 
Olson, Creeley, and other New American speech-based writers. For 
emerging writers, this vast array of poetic possibilities does not 
necessarily come with the need to reject other poetries that seems a 
dominant concern of all earlier generations of avant garde writers.
	This multiplicity of form should not be misunderstood as an 
unself-aware presentation of multiple voices speaking their own 
subjective concerns. Rather, it is a multiplicity of consciously used 
formal conjunctions, disjunctions, refusals, acceptances, celebrations 
and despairs that can make use of all formal possibilities in the 
various situations from which they speak. That is, it is a highly 
critical use of poetic forms that explores the tensions between all 
conceivable formal possibilities as the ground of its practice. Thus, 
far from being politically complacent, despairing, or confused, as 
Lawrence would have it, such writing is opening up many new 
investigations of form with a whole range of specific critical 
purposes, one of which is a definite and highly vocal critique of many 
political and cultural practices.
	In his essential introduction to the anthology of poetics Writing 
From the New Coast: Technique, Steve Evans has suggested 
something similar in his argument that the emerging avant garde 
writers appearing in that anthology are linked by their "hatred of 
Identity" (Evans, "Introduction" 5). Evans argues that every creation 
also involves a negation, and that the particular negation of emerging 
avant garde writers can be found in their rejection of the public 
identities created and demanded by market capitalism: "As the 
following pages attest, every available concept of non-identity (the 
other, the alien, the amodal, the non- or extra-linguistic, etc.) is 
employed--but with a sense of dissastisfaction, as though these 
concepts were not non-identical enough" (Evans 7). Evans locates 
these concerns as emerging from two traditions; that of "radical 
linguistic practice" and that of "radical social practice" developed in 
the twentieth century. While in so doing he overlooks some sources 
that are not entirely "radical linguistic practice," he is certainly right 
that even less "radical" poetic forms are put to radically changed 
	Evans concentrates, in precise and accurate detail, on the ways 
emerging writers refuse to be commodified by market capitalism and 
even, by implication, by the history of poetic production. Yet by 
emphasizing the negations of emerging writers, Evans' introduction 
tends to look less at the ways in which these writers are also 
building identities, although they are identities that need to be 
understood as critiquing, rather than capitulating to, the capitalist 
notion of Identity that Evans so accurately criticizes. Therefore, 
Evans' essay ultimately leaves these writers too dimly seen, as if 
they are hiding out, refusing to participate, rather than aggressively 
asserting new ways of participating.
	As Evans implies, the use of multiple forms by emerging 
writers is not purely derivative of earlier poetries.5 While borrowing 
from numerous sources, are configuring those sources in ways not 
attempted before, re-mixing a huge range of possibilities to meet 
their own concerns.
	Examples of these new configurations are numerous, both in 
terms of poetic and editorial practices. A list of them can only be 
partial, and will both leave out key figures and rely on the kind of 
critical shorthand that can never do justice to a writer's work. The 
writing of Lee Ann Brown, Dodie Bellamy, and Kevin Killian displays 
a complex relation between disjunctive language and explorative 
sexualities, although Brown is an East Coast poet indebted to New 
York School writing and Bellamy and Killian are post-New Sentence 
West Coast narrative writers. Significant use has been made of the 
relation between the lyric, ideological critique and language 
structuralism in the work of writers like Chris Stroffolino, Elizabeth 
Burns, Jean Donnelly, Bill Tuttle, Buck Downs, Elizabeth Fodaski, Peter 
Gizzi, Joe Ross, and in some of my own writing; all these writers, in 
various ways, write a poetry that is deeply personal, socially 
engaged, and concerned with questions of language and syntax, good 
examples of the kind of work Evans promotes in his article in 
Taproot. The ironic social landscapes of Jefferson Hansen, Rodrigo 
Toscano or Rod Smith are clearly indebted to language writing, yet 
have elements of a specifically located, almost Objectivist social 
realism; Hansen's narrative sweep has a midwestern inflection, 
Toscano's jarring disjunctions arise from social conditions in southern 
California, and Smith's deeply wry, precise understatements reflect 
the ironies of urban east coast power struggles. Cutting edge 
theatrical, film and pop culture techniques have influenced the work 
of Jena Osman, Stacy Doris and Juliana Spahr: Osman has made use of 
Brechtian alienation affects, Doris plays interestingly with science 
fiction, and Spahr has used elements of avant garde film, horror 
movies and talk shows. Less strident in its insistence on its own 
spirituality than the essays in Apex of the M, the consciously 
anachronistic aestheticism of Elizabeth Willis, Elizabeth Robinson, or 
Pam Rehm explores the continued possibility of avant garde religious 
poetry, to which the satirical alchemy of Kim Rosenfield serves as 
evil twin. Susan Schultz, Mark Ducharme and Ben Friedlander all 
write a highly introspective, philosophical poetry, although Schultz' 
and Ducharme's work is more concerned with social irony, and 
Friedlander's writing is influenced by his knowledge of the European 
philisophical tradition. New conjunctions of visual art and poetry are 
appearing in the writing and publishing activities of Bill Howe, John 
Byrum, Bob Grumman and Spencer Selby. Much is already being 
done with Borkhuis' suggestions about the conjunctions between 
surrealism and langauge writing in the work of writers like Will 
Alexander and Andrew Joron, and even Daly and Noto offer 
potentially valuable explorations, if they would only relax their drive 
for singularity and mastery. Many other writers whose work might 
be considered post-language in various degrees should be mentioned 
here as well: Michael Basinski, Martine Bellen, Cydney Chadwick, 
Daniel Davidson, Jeff Derksen, Robert Fitterman, Forrest Gander, Drew 
Gardner, Lisa Jarnot, Myung Mi Kim, Bill Luoma, Joshua McKinney, 
Mark McMorris, Jennifer Moxley, Gale Nelson, Cole Swensen, and 
Thad Ziolkowski are only some of them. There has been far-reaching 
editorial activity also; the collaborative editorial format of the journal 
Chain, the wide coverage of the review newspaper Taproot Reviews, 
the multiple formal concerns of Poetic Briefs (which more than any 
other recent poetics publication has insisted on the necessity of the 
kind of formal multiplicity I am suggesting in this essay), among 
many others.
	Of course, whether emerging avant garde writers see this 
multiplicity as the source of their own strength is a complicated 
question. Some do and some don't, which I suppose is only fitting, 
given the cultural circumstances I am discussing, in which what is 
missing is any way to find a singular purpose, even mistakenly, 
among these writers. Furthermore, the relation between their poetic 
purposes and their political purposes remains complex, especially in 
a time when, as Lawrence notes, writers are futher and further 
alienated from the possibility of much political significance 
(Lawrence 152). But it is a mistake to see the lack of that significance 
as the cause of this formal proliferation, as Lawrence does, rather 
than seeing this proliferation as a way of re-engaging the possibility 
of significance.
	It might be asked what the value of pointing out a generational 
identity might be, if it is precisely a singular identity (if not 
"Identity" itself, as Evans might have it) that these writers are 
rejecting. There are several responses to that question. One is that 
the conjunction, in this essay, between a description of emerging 
avant garde writers and a defense of their value, may make it easier 
to see the significance of what these many and varied writers are 
	Much more important, but unavoidably linked to the above 
need, is the real human activity at stake in the identity crisis that 
currently faces emerging avant garde writers. Unable sometimes to 
see a place for themselves in the ongoing changes of poetry or in the 
currently established poetry production networks, many writers I 
know feel a great pain, confusion, and even despair, and the danger 
of giving up seems very high. It would be too easy to say to such 
writers that they shouldn't worry about how they will be received, 
but should simply continue plugging away in the hope of one day 
achieving some small measure of recognition. Writing is a hard and 
frequently lonely calling, and the isolation and dispersion of 
emerging avant garde writers is often crippling. Most people need 
and deserve response to the things they take seriously; if that 
response is not forthcoming, more than the work itself is often 
sacrificed--along with it can go the energy, engagement, and 
commitment of the individual to any significant practice. Articulating 
possible ways of reading emerging avant garde writers may be 
exactly the best way to create for them a significant readership and 
the varied human contact that may make it worthwhile to continue.
	Despite the obstacles facing emerging avant garde writers, the 
"post-language" avant garde has a uniquely broad range of 
opportunity. Avant garde writers now have the chance to try out 
numerous formal possibilities and to work with a variety of 
influences broader than that of previous generations. If they can 
recognize the value of this range of possiblity, they also have great 
potential to resist the sort of narrow labelling that almost always 
ends up doing harm to the complex interactions of poetry, however 
much it may help certain writers establish their names. While some 
people may argue that emerging avant garde writers can do nothing 
that will have the visceral shock that language writing initially had, 
that argument is difficult to prove. How do we know what anybody 
will do until we've seen what they've done? For emerging avant 
garde writers, all the convictions of earlier generations about the 
value of poetic forms are up in the air again, a field of play rather 
than of certainty. 

	Works Cited

Charles Borkhuis, "Land of the Signifieds, or Writing From Inside 
Language." ONTHEBUS, 1992. 268-280.

Lew Daly, "Ends Irrespective of (The Limits of) Their Means." A 
Poetics of Criticism (Buffalo, NY: Leave Books, 1994), 187-196.

Steve Evans, "Antslide: Recent Anthologies." Taproot Reviews #6 
(Cleveland, OH: Burning Press, 1995), 14-15.

Steve Evans, "Introduction." Writing From the New Coast: Technique 
(Providence, RI: Oblek 1993), 4-11.

Nick Lawrence, "Review." I Am A Child (Buffalo, NY: Tailspin Press, 
1994), 151-152.

John Noto, "Response to the Postmoderns (and Post-Punkers!)." 
Talisman #11 (Hoboken, NJ: 1993), 183-191.

Bob Perelman, "Language Writing and Literary History," Aerial 8 
(Washington, D.C.: Edge Books, 1994), 123-140.

"State of the Art." Apex of the M #1 (Buffalo, NY: 1994), 5-7.

"The Contextal Imperative." Apex of the M #2 (Buffalo, NY: 1995), 5-

1.	In "Ends Irrespective of (the Limits of) Their Means," in many 
ways an invective against language writing, Lew Daly launches the 
typical, and I think mistaken, complaint that "The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 
poets' self-styled repoliticization of poetry during the seventies and 
eighties, while it has undoubtedly made theoretical contributions of 
lasting importance, especially with regard to its carefully considered 
emphasis on the materiality of language and its consistent 
questioning of the authority of the speaking subject, still falls short 
of its own theoretical advantages when faced with the requirement 
of creating inspired poems" ("Ends" 191). As with many similar 
claims, Daly's rejection of language writing is not accompanied by a 
close analysis of the supposed failings of any particular piece of 
language writing.
2.	Clark Coolidge and Michael Palmer, for instance, are writers of 
large reputation on the basis primarily of their poetry, and Coolidge 
is even actively resistant to most critical writing. Yet both writers 
have roots in movements prior to language writing, and so can be 
considered language writers only to a certain extent. Lyn Hejinian 
and Leslie Scalapino, both of whom have written significant critical 
work, have reputations also based primarily on their poetry. Michael 
Davidson and Nick Piombino, both excellent critics, are not well 
known outside the language network. Despite these exceptions, it's 
still true that language writers as a group have achieved their 
reputation more because of their critical work than because of their 
3.	Although the editorial pieces that begin each issue of Apex are 
unsigned, a stylistic comparison with Lew Daly's essay in the 
collection A Poetics of Criticism will show the writing to be primarily 
his own, to whatever extent the other editors may have shaped it or 
agreed with it.
4.	Luigi Bob Drake, editor of Taproot Reviews, tells me that only 
part of Evans' essay appeared in Taproot. Thus my comments here 
are based only on the currently available portion of that essay. Quite 
possibly the complete essay answers the concerns expressed here 
about Evans' lack of thoroughness.
5.	I don't want to go too deeply into the problems presented by 
thinking of poetry in terms of the "new" and the "derivative," which I 
discussed in greater detail in my essay "The Lyric As Experimental 
Possibility" (Witz, Spring 1995).