70’s have waned to a degree, the readernstill will not have to look far to findnsuch leaps of association as this one bynJack Driscoll, from a recent issue ofnPoetry: “I stared and stared / at thenshape of my mother’s lips, the squarenof Kleenex almost dissolved, a perfectnred O / floating in the toilet. / I don’tnknow why I thought of you, Houdini, /nnaked beneath the frozen Detroitnriver.”nIf one is a believer in neat Hegeliannprogressions, “the New Narrative &nthe New Formalism” that are the subjectsnof this collection would indeednseem inevitable, representing a synthesisnthat repudiates certain aspects of thenpast and consolidates others. Both ofnthe movements that make up ExpansivistnPoetry favor retention of a relaxed,nconversational idiom and a subjectnmatter, according to Robert Mc-nPhillips, derived “not from the academynbut from the quotidian worid andnthe desire to write about emotion directlynand memorably.” The poetnshould reject the excesses of confessionalismnin favor of a more objectivenstance; as McDowell notes in outliningnten qualities of a New Narrative, “In angood narrative poem the narrator is anwitness.” A more traditional approachnto prosody is advocated by a number ofnthe participants. Wyatt Prunty, decryingnwhat he calls the “stylish, highlynmarketable thinness” of the poetry ofnRobert Creeley and A.R. Ammons,nwhat he wittily terms “Emaciated Poetry,”nargues for “rhythm regularnenough to function as rhythm, linesnlong enough to allow that rhythm tonwork.” All of these, if not quite automaticallynyielding what the book’s jacketnloudly promises (“THIS BOOK ISnABOUT POETRY YOU CANnREAD!”), at least offer alternatives tonan American poetry whose bankruptcynis undeniably demonstrated by its lacknof readers beyond the poets themselves,nand by its general retreat intonthe closed world of the university writingnprograms and presses subsidized bynpublic funds.nAs much as one might welcome thenlevelheadedness that characterizesnthe writing in Expansive Poetry, somenproblems surface almost immediately.nThe writers’ tone is often too shrill andnself-congratulatory in alluding ton”struggle” and the “irritated and isolat­ned” persistence of the poets they advocate.nThe wilderness in which theynhave cried has not been without itsncompensations: Feirstein lists severalnimpressive awards and a Guggenheimnin his biographical notes; Dick Allennhas received grants from the NEA andnthe Ingram-Merrill Foundation; TimothynSteele’s Sapphics Against Angernand Other Poems was published bynRandom House. Further, the circle ofnwriters discussed here may be too smallnto validate the editor’s claims that thenpoetry has had time “to prevail andnestablish itself,” especially since manynof the essays refer to poetry written bynthe book’s own contributors. Thesenblemishes notwithstanding, they arenmore than balanced by the often hystericalnresponses quoted from poets ofnthe other camp. Diane Wakoski somehownmanages to equate T.S. Eliot’snpoetics with Ronald Reagan’s politics;nanother critic labels the movementn”Yuppie Poetry”; Bin Ramke, poetryneditor for the University of GeorgianPress, asks whether “the return … tonreceived forms” has occurred becausen”the elite wants its badge shined. ” Onennotes in all three comments a simplistic,neven simpleminded, attempt tonpoliticize the aims of the movement.nAddressing this point, Paul Lake entitlesnhis essay “Toward a Liberal Poetics,”narguing that politicization is “simplyna rather shabby rhetorical devicenemployed to frighten the sheep backninto the fold.” Unfortunately, some ofnthe other contributors employ thensame strategies. At the end of theirnfascinating essay on the neurologicalnbasis of poetic meter, “The NeuralnLyre,” Frederick Turner and ErnstnPoppel make the farfetched contentionnthat “free verse, like existentialist philosophy,nis nicely adapted to the needsnof the bureaucratic and even the totalitariannstate, because of its confinementnof human concern within narrow specializednlimits where it will not benpolitically threatening.” The legions ofnHitler and Stalin did not march to thendifferent drummer of projective verse.nA larger defect than any of these,nhowever, arises from the need to gathernseveral different poetic camps undernthe expansivist banner, an attempt thatnleads to confused aims in many essays.nWhile many of the contributors explorenthe possibilities of the long poem,nno one ever manages to define hownnnlong long is, as if Poe’s preposterousnhundred-line limit had settled thenquestion for all time. Either throughnoversight or willful omission scant attentionnis paid to such extended effortsnas James Merrill’s The Changing Lightnat Sandover, Vikram Seth’s verse novelnThe Golden Gate, or Alfred Corn’snNotes from a Child of Paradise. Similarly,nno one succeeds in explainingnhow the New Narrative differs fromnthe old; Richard Moore skillfully examinesnthe delights of narrative poetry,nbut his chief exemplars are Hardy andnFrost. McDowell’s ten points of definition,nwhich grew out of his and MarknJarman’s editorial criteria for ThenReaper, contain little that cannot bendeduced from the Poetics. In one ofnthe collection’s clearest pieces of analysis,nRobert McPhillips contrasts thenplain styles of the New Formalists withnthe baroque utterances of the 50’snacademics, but, in citing examplesnfrom the early works of John Hollander,nAnthony Hecht, and Richard Wilbur,nhe ignores the more relaxed idiomsnemployed by all three poets sincenroughly the mid-I960’s. While “expansive”nmay be as good a label as anynfor the general directions probed innthese essays, no clear relationship isnestablished between a poet’s techniquen(whether to write in meter or freenverse, for example) and his way ofndealing with subject matter (the ancientndistinctions of lyrical, dramatic,nand narrative approaches).nNevertheless, Expansive Poetrynshould prove heartening to readersnwho have found little to cheer them innthe last few decades of American poetry,nprovocative only to those who havensome stake in maintaining the hegemoniesnof such intertwined entities asnthe Associated Writing Programs, thenAmerican Poetry Review, and nationalnand state arts councils. The commonnsense and lucid style common to mostnof the essays in this collection are goodnrecommendations for the works theynexamine, and, in seeking them out,none hopes to encounter the honorablenaims of pleasure and instrucfion thatntoo much contemporary poetry seemsnto have abandoned. nDECEMBER 1989/33n