Of Modernism I sigh.
“We have grown accustomed to speak offhandedly
of ‘modern literature,’
of the ‘modern temper,’
and even of
but until recently we have not made much effort to
the meaning of this term that we find so
Modernism interprets the world.
It (the -ism) says this world is primarily disordered, chaotic,
fragmented, and in dire need of
a historical tune-up.
Modernism says the world
needs order and imposes cartesianism on it
(more -isms), making machines
and systems and
the dichotomous determiners of human subjectivity.
Modernism knows too much of the world
too much of -isms
too much of freedom
and too much of tradition
and sometimes claims it is discontinuous
when it refers to Helen of Troy.
Modernism argues that the world
and we’re all gonna DIE anyway,
so we should just sit down and suck our –isms,
Or at our very most opulent least perceive that what jazz we’re sucking
is only an -ism.
A modern poet spews his (and maybe her) -isms
to MAKE it NEW
nothing is good save the NEW
no ideas but in things
just raw soundwords
madonnas in jars
violets and white flowers
balding quick-witted womanizers
and virulent goat’s-blood-speckled rocks.
Behind their dicta
is the same thing that poets always have behind them.
A greeny flower.
A woman’s thigh.
A fruit or nut.
A sudden light.
They claim modernity.
They profess modernism.
Whatever that is.
 Ellman, Richard, and Charles Feidelson, eds. Preface. The Modern Tradition. New York: Oxford UP, 1965. v-ix. Print.