Anew battle of the books is in progress. This time, thenlines are not being drawn between modern and ancientnbut between the present and the recent past, and thenantagonists are not Homer against Milton or Aristotle vs.nBacon, but such younger poets as Dana Gioia and FrednTurner against an academic poetry establishment that hasnrejected form and narrative in favor of private communicationnin a flat, unbeautiful language that runs the gamut fromninsipid to unintelligible. Too simply put, the battle is overnrhyme and reason.nThe beginning of any war narrative should include annestimate of comparative strengths. At first glance, it looksnbad for the rebels. The modern/postmodern establishmentnhas virtually all the resources. It controls the grantingnagencies — public and private, the major literary prizes,ncreative writing programs, journals, and professorships.nHowever, the “new formalists” — a dreadful term I shall usenjust this once — have a number of valuable assets. Sincentheir work is generally accessible, it has the potential fornattrachng a large audience. What is more important at thisnstage of our cultural history, the rebellious posture has anpeculiar charm for modernist intellectuals, who have a hardntime realizing that they are themselves the “them,” thenEstablishment, the powers that be.nThe war has heated up in recent months, with both sidesnscoring major victories. The rebels not only succeeded innputting out a manifesto issue of Crosscurrents but alsonreleased a volume of essays. Expansive Poetry: Essays on then12/CHRONICLESnPERSPECTIVEnNunc Est Bibendum K/inQ^fnOr Now That Poetry Is Dead,nI Think I’ll Just Sit Here and Drinknby Thomas FlemingnnnNew Narrative and the New Formalism. They were given anprobably unintentional assist from Joseph Epstein, whosenessay in Commentary “Who Killed Poetry?” forcefullynmakes the commonsense argument that Americans haven,given up on poetry and for good reasons. The essay wasnreprinted in Associated Writing Programs Chronicle, withnrejoinders from a number of poets. Some of the answersnwere prudent; most were hysterical and irresponsible and asnbadly written as the writers’ verse. Such consistency is, Insuppose, a mark of their sincerity.nMr. Epstein’s most serious charge is simply that poetry isnnow an academic question. Not so long ago, poets wereninsurance executives and physicians and bankers; now theynare all, uniformly, professors on the make. The only poet tonendorse (with suitable reservations) this criticism was DananGioia, himself a business executive. As Mr. Gioia points outnin his rejoinder, the weakest part of Mr. Epstein’s case is hisnlack of familiarity with the few good poets writing in Englishntoday, on both sides of the Atlantic. But these are, unfortunately,nthe exceptions that prove the rule, since apart fromnelder statesmen like Richard Wilbur and X.J. Kennedy, fewnof the traditional poets have received any attention from thenofficial organs of the literary establishment. A few havenreceived grants, but for the most part the traditionalists donnot wear medals, hold distinguished chairs at great universities,nor find themselves interviewed on National PublicnRadio. ‘ ,nThe academic reaction to Epstein’s article betrayed then