Literary scholar Jennifer Ashton – author of the canonical study From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century – has published a very interesting critical appraisal of metamodern poetry and the work of Dana Ward over at NonSite.
In his poem ‘Things the Baby Liked, A-Z’, Ward invokes the figure of Bertolt Brecht, noting that “people don’t talk much about him anymore is there some idea that his work is too didactic or plain in its political motivations to satisfy certain contemporary sensibilities”. He then continues to seemingly effortlessly reimagine Brecht first on a cosy fishing trip with Walter Benjamin and later as a macho Snoop Dogg avant-la-lettre, depoliticizing and recontextualising him in order to repopularize him. In her essay ‘Poetry and the Price of Milk’, Ashton argues that the constant repositioning that characterises Ward’s poetry, moving smoothly from the modernist political Brecht to the unpopular, apolitical postmodernist Brecht to the current alterpolitical Brecht, is less about creating a new critical idiom towards capitalism, i.e. demonstrating that there are alternative models to think about the world than the rigid systems available to us afford, than it is about producing the flexible cultural conditions in which it can thrive. The metamodernism of Ward, she suggests, with its “infinite array of attitudes and affective poles from which to swing, an A-Z of ever new (and old) things to “like”” (as the poem’s title suggests) succeeds in “turning beliefs (political and aesthetic alike) into something more like attitudes or inclinations”. Liberating as this may feel, in control as it may make us seem, it also, Ashton warns, “is nothing if not capitalism’s fantasy of the market, one in which what we “like” can also masquerade as a politics”.
You can read the whole essay here. We’re very keen to hear your thoughts. If you’d like to join the discussion, get in touch via the comments section, email, facebook or twitter.