I think Ginger is really on to something here, that the New Sincerity isn't just a response to contemporary poetry, but a perceived lack of sincerity in American culture.

Because I do think it is such an artistic and cultural touchstone, is this, at heart, a response to September 11? To our president's edit that "America is open for business?" Perhaps we're open for—to—more than that now, including the realization that life is too short to be a cool cucumber and not long enough to play clever games.

Within 30 days of September 11, the longest relationship I was in ended. People I knew got engaged and quickly married. People moved out of cities (or to new ones), quit jobs, started or changed families. It seems that maybe we take things a little bit more seriously now.


  1. I think *you* are on to something here. Post-911 call "Back to Business". I was struck by the NEA apps that year, directly following. Even Bernstein read a poem that October, cursing with the ghosts of his slaughtered ancestors, that was quite "sincere" — I remember that, saying that exact word in response to it. Sincere.

    But, being a Chicana, I tend to distrust all abstract entities attempting to define who I am & what I think (write). (I am constantly advising students to "call a moratorium on abstract language."). I like what I said back in the days of editing Red Dirt: "Poetry rooted in the earth and rendered in blood." Which, to me, begins & ends with Neruda. You can't get any more sincere than that. Hmmm. Maybe pseudonyms are the answer? Is a poet more sincere when no knows their real name? That way, no one could answer for you, especially not family.

    And who is Tony Robinson, if not a Chicano poet? It takes one to know one. He oozes Xicanismo in his resistance & insistance

  2. Lorna, thanks for responding--your remarks are wonderful! I'm also against abstraction—too much gets lost or misinterpreted there—but I'm not sure the various NS subscribers (is there a word for what we are?) have—perhaps purposefully—functionally elucidated what "sincerity" is.

  3. Its interesting to consider the ns a response to the insincerity of American Pop. Its certainly worth thinking about. But my initial reaction has been to interpret it as fitting right in with the anti-ironical, anti-complex, and anti-intellectual currents so prevalent today. The idea that how one seems to feel on the surface (trusting one's gut)is more legit and somehow less pessimistic than what may be buried well below the level of what is obvious(which, to access requires putting emotions at least slightly to the side for a moment)seems to me symptomatic of a cultural current that saw Al Gore as too boring, insincere, and full of viewpoints that took to much thought to comfortably grasp when compared with the emotionally charged and (according to many Americans) plain spoken and honest. A similar response was extracted from voters who trusted Bush's personality and charisma (his "human" qualities) and viewed Kerry with disdain for laying out (compared to Bush) measured, rational, programs. You know, the whole flip-flopping thing thrown at him because he was capable of changing his mind and seeing things from more than one, obvious vantage point. But even though Bush doubtlessly is aesthetically more sincere than his two opponents, few thoughtful people would fall for the image, right? And since we are talking about a poetic aesthetic here, isn't there an important parallel?

  4. Charles, Lorna, Walter - some excellent points. I suspect that the NS is also a reaction against the legacy of Postmodernism and its rejection of authorial intent and control. If postmodernism argues against the individual and the absolute, might not the NS reflect a return to the individual and significance of personal experience? At the very least, it seems to be a move away from language play for its own sake.

  5. You know, I'm just not convinced that the NS is about personal experience at all. Definitely not necessarily lived experience. I think fictionalized events, lyrics, etc, can be very sincere...

  6. It's about, I think fidelity to experienced emotion. However, this does not mean that biography is an essential element, though it could be an element.

  7. Lorna Dee wrote:

    "But, being a Chicana, I tend to distrust all abstract entities attempting to define who I am & what I think (write)."

    Thanks for pointing this out. This is exactly what I _tried) to convey in my first NS post.

    When any abstract entity dictates what it is and is not okay to write, especially to a young writer (who often doesn't know any better) I get angry. This is why I discussed the "Tortilla School." You misread my intent. I don't hate on anyone for writing what they want to write. I hate on those supposedly older and wiser representatives of our raza (the human one) who deem this or that the only appropriate ways for a person of a particular ethnicity to write. These people, the poor students who believe them (against their own artistic impulses) and the mostly boring poetry they produce, I deem "The Tortilla School."

    This is not random hating on anyone's lived experience. It's suspicion (and yes, a bit of hostility) toward the willful limiting of one's artistic boundaries.

    Chale to that.