At the end of Ron's excellent post today on Ponge, he claims that "the idea of poetry as a mechanism for exploring & recognizing the forms of the world (rather than merely superimposing the cookie-cutter patterns of poetry onto the world) remains largely unexplored in American poetry outside of Ronald Johnson’s ARK." I'll grant that the bulk of mainstream poetry leaves lots of things unexplored, but can't one find many examples within "experimental" poetry (or whatever we want to call the kind of poetry "we" like) of the sort of heuristic approach that I understand Ron as describing? What about the work of Larry Eigner, Robert Grenier, Clark Coolidge, Susan Howe, or Leslie Scalapino, all of which I read as attempting to engage experiential forms through a responsive use of language? I'm thinking of books like Coolidge's Polaroid, in which processes of photographic emulsification, exposure, etc., are "translated" via an improvised lexical mimesis, or Scalapino's Way, which presents discrete moments of empirical and emotional sensation as fluidly sympathetic stanzas.
One can go further back and trace this emphasis on a receptive--as against impositional--impulse to general notions of Projectivism, Open Form, Organic Form, or back further yet to Williams and the Objectivists. And once we go that far, aren't we just talking about a trait that inheres on one level or another in at least half the effective American poetry ever written, from Dickinson to Stein to Pound to McClure to O'Hara to Juliana Spahr or Hoa Nguyen?
But one of the most vital inclinations of poetry, any poetry, is to explore and recognize the forms of the world rather than squeezing the world into forms. George Herbert, Thomas Traherne, Margaret Cavendish, William Blake, and John Clare were all concerned with doing this, as were countless others.
Another of poetry's most vital inclinations, however, has been precisely to squeeze the world into forms, an inclination that is most successful perhaps when it manages to create the illusion that those forms were there all along, or at least that they belong there where they may not have already been. Milton. Pope. Zukofsky? Many of the Language poets?