Linh Dinh reports, over at Harriet: The Blog, that:
Seldomly do we see this kind of gravity in American poetry. Clear, direct and free of personal references, it’s also aimed at the widest public, at the nation. Americans, those few tolerating poetry, tend to cringe at poets assuming such a grand posture. Our first, Walt Whitman, remains our best. Ginsberg was but a shadow, at times parody. Half prophet, half clown, he was in any case our last public bard.
This is an important subject: gravity in American poetry, as relative to American poets’ and the American public’s interest(s) in the nation. I felt the immediate urge to scroll down the archives of POEMS FOR THE FIRST 100 DAYS, but the first on the site seems only to prove Dinh’s point.
I want to offer a response, a fist raised in defense of American poets, but I think, instead and immediately, of non-poets, and of writers from other nations: I think of Salman Rushdie’s Step Across this Line and Imaginary Homelands; I think of Said and Naipaul, Sebald and Coetzee. I think of Anderson’s Imagined Communities, of Anzaldua’s Borderlands, Bhabha’s The Location of Culture, Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Hareven’s Thirst, Suleri’s Meatless Days, and, of course, Soja’s Thirdspace.
And then, too, I think of Anthony Doerr, who in my humble opinion wins the prize for gravity in American fiction. “The Caretaker,” anyone? For although its politics begin in Liberia, the story’s end comments on America’s, for what happens to Joseph Saleeby could happen to anyone whose exile/escape from his homeland doesn’t quite end up/live up to the hype of America’s promised land of the free . . .
So Doerr’s got something to add to the discussion of literature and the nation. But my questions now are: Who else? And which American poets do (or did)? And do you?