Indie Lit Classic: Tony Tost

27 Nov

attachmentComposing correspondence on my typewriter has been one of my favorite activities during the past 15 months or so. The nature of my letters takes various forms, depending on whom I’m corresponding with, what state of mind I’m in, and the content of my latest obsessions, etc. To this end, epistolary poems, such as those that Jack Spicer wrote, have been at the forefront of my poetic imagination lately.

That’s why, this morning, I was pleased to stumble upon Tony Tost’s “Disarm the Settlers” in issue 2 of Typo (which went live, originally, sometime in late-2003 or early-2004; they’re not good on dating issues over there). Tost’s contribution to the issue is a series of letters addressed to “Typo” (a.k.a Adam Clay and Matthew Henriksen) that contain passages which are alternately intellectual, humorous, and provocative (at least in that poetry-world kind of way).

Some of my favorites excerpts from “Disarm” are:

And then there’s the experimental/post-avant domestic state, and I’m rather afraid to say anything about it because someone will quote a French guy on their blog and make me look stupid.

there’s people out there, or in here, writing very necessary, Tostian stuff

Sometimes I am that imaginary neophyte

Sometimes I just write poems. But our moms and dads aren’t rich enough for us to think “career” is a dirty word.

at first I thought it was extreme jealousy that caused William Carlos Williams to claim (more or less) that The Waste Land was (more or less) a disaster for American poetry. But now I think WCW was right, not because of anything inherently wrong with the poem itself, which I still think is stunning, but because in the wake of Eliot’s influence the New Critics came to power, and soon poetry entered academia with gusto, and soon we would have creative writing programs, which meant we were going to have a power vacuum that someone was going to fill. And soon we had New Critics directly dictating to students not only how to read, but how to write poetry, and the workshop was created to produce more poems the New Critics could wield mastery and authority over. And this was a disaster for how American poetry was read

Check out “Disarm the Settlers” and the entirety of issue 2 of Typo, which boasts poems by the likes of Graham Foust, Alex Lemon, Ben Lerner, Franz Wright, etc, here. Tost is the author of Invisible Bride, Complex Sleep, and Johnny Cash’s American Recoridngs.

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