The Objectivist Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics' by Rachel Blau DuPlessis & Peter Quartermain, editors
Editors DuPlessis and Quartermain have done a valuable service in collecting these essays which confirm and extend the importance of Objectivist poetics in American poetry. This movement began formally with Louis Zukofsky's "Objectivist" issue of Poetry (February 1931) and An Objectivist Anthology in 1932. The Objectivist poets, branded by an editorial demand for a common rubric by Harriet Monroe of Poetry, became associated with a capricious aesthetic practice and philosophy. The major poets connected with the term, George Oppen, Lorine Niedecker, Carl Rakosi, Basil Bunting, Charles Reznikoff, and Zukofsky, are the subjects of this book. The editors and essayists see clear origins in the work of Pound, Stein, Moore, and W. C. Williams; and important descendents in Cid Corman, Kathleen Fraser, Lyn Hejinian, Rosmarie Waldrop, and the Language poets.
Debated, refused, embraced, contradicted, defined and redefined by its "members," Objectivism's central tenets has remained relatively stable—the poem as object, as a formal music formed from the intense and sincere gaze and intelligence of the poet. Over time, however, these principles have enlarged into a necessity to "focus many factors into one unit," "the elucidation of a new object, or an old one stripped so one could see it freshly," and "of or having to do with a material object as distinguished from a mental concept, idea, or belief." Each practitioner has refuted or refined these ideas in their writings. Mainly through Lorine Niedecker (who came to the movement after the two original anthologies), and the evolving work of younger writers in the tradition, the need to express interior feelings through the object has become important. I would argue that Stein and Williams, in particular, presaged this evolution.
This collection of essays serves to flesh out the many paradoxes inherent in these oftentimes unlike and cantankerous poets. It elucidates relationships between the cultural milieu and this group of writers whose work frequently engages in social, political, and cultural criticism. It connects the reader to the core aesthetics which enabled for such a destabilizing, avant-garde poetics. DuPlessis and Quartermain suggest the term "nexus" for its un-limiting quality—defining a movement in which the poets' differences and changing concerns orbit around each other, retaining relationship, but allowing contradiction. This valuable anthology furthers the fine work began in Quartermain's Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe published in 1992 by Cambridge University Press. The Objectivist Nexus is an essential tool to understanding a complicated, lively, and enlightened poetic movement of the last century, which will continue to exercise considerable influence in this one.