Graphic depictions of violence snake through virtually every form of American entertainment and art, from classic cartoon violence of The Simpsons, to movie violence of Tarantino, and graphic depictions of violence in horror by Ellis, Caine and other writers. Even highly acclaimed episodic shows such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones thrive on routine depictions of beatings, murders, and rape.
By contrast, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single graphic depiction of violence in any celebrated American poem. Even Poe at his darkest, or Bukowski on his most misanthropic whiskey binge, never touch upon the kind of larger-than-life depictions of violence that otherwise groove the pulse of our cultural machine from stealth bombers to genuine life serial killers.
As far as I can see, this widely accepted artistic aesthetic is missing from American poetry.
Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot of it being written and even posted or published in zines, but it's almost all angsty teenager stuff even if isn't being written by literal teenagers (which is mostly is.)
Tupac gets talked about as a violent poet. I agree. Some of his words deal directly with violent subjects and issues, but still no projectile vomiting or slow-motion beheadings. You won't find a crash-test dummy segment like Tarantino painstakingly assembles in Death Proof. And you certainly won't find Bones and All.
Playing spoiler here: I personally think this is a good thing. I'm all for drawing a discernable line between spectacle and art.
On the other hand, intentionally or not, our society is doing everything to erase that line. We celebrate the spectacle of human torture and suffering in film, but unlike the Romans who remained aware of the online between spectacle and art, we embrace violence as art.
But not, seemingly, in poetry.
How do you feel about this?
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1/2/2023 09:11:42 pm
Spectacle. That is pecisely the line. I think poetry is far more interested in reconciliation of emo to reason than is permitted by gratuitous violence. There is a place for it in poetry because it exists in our world, but without a sense-making context it is wholly inappropriate and offensive - offensive on a human level versus on a social/artistic level.
1/3/2023 10:16:32 am
Thanks for your excellent observations.
1/4/2023 04:27:37 pm
I think it's maybe a sign of adolescent puerility with the US. We're struggling to find our adult identity. That's always violent because of a need to rebel simultaneous with a love of nostalgia and need for approval from someone ... other.
1/5/2023 01:35:19 pm
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