“The greatest divide in poetry, by far, of the past hundred years has been between poets who treat language as a locus for imminent meaning and those who treat it as a locus for transcendent meaning.”  –Seth Abramson from Why You’re Wrong (Yet Again): A Note to Silliman.

I Hope You’re Not Right: A Note to Abramson

The ratio of imminent and transcendent words depends on the rhetorical purpose.

Serious prose will feature the latter.

Punning, or humor, will feature the former.

Poetry, aiming at its particular effect, will display itself splendidly in-between.

The pun, as we all know, humorously calls attention to the imminent nature of words.

Pope’s line, “The sound must seem an echo to the sense,” glimpses the ideal combination of  imminent and transcendent, long identified with poetry.

Now, if contemporary poetry is defined by a split between imminence and transcendence, as you assert in your powerful rebuttal to Ron Silliman’s ‘Quietude/Neophobe’ 7/7/10 blog-post, all the worse for contemporary poetry, torn asunder by strict followers of imminence on one hand, and transcendence on the other—since the art of poetry depends on a skillful combining of the two.

A post-avant serious treatment of humor, and likewise, the post-avant humorous treatment of the serious, default to serious and humorous, respectively—they are merely the two categories stated above: the transcendent and the imminent, and here may be why poetry has lost its way: the ideal combination in actual practice has been cast aside for pedantic and inartistic reasons—which have taken on a life of their own, in a self-fulfilling, downward spiral.



  1. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    July 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    “Don’t immanentize the eschaton!” — Eric Voegelin

  2. Diana Manister said,

    July 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    A pox on both your houses.

  3. Al Cordle said,

    July 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I have no doubt that Seth will throw an e-tantrum and take everything he posted down, so the war is already over.

  4. thomasbrady said,

    July 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Here’s another take on the ‘School of Quietude:’

  5. notevensuperficial said,

    July 12, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Abramson’s criticism of Silliman is apt – cluster criticism is as lazy and inaccurate as is line-segment history -, but can he (Abramson) really have confused – or accepted as synonymous – imminence, ‘a hanging over; being about to happen; threat’, and immanence, ‘not-waiting; immediately here-and-now’, which latter is the antonym of transcendence??

    (Silliman’s provocation is also apt: down with apertophobia.)

  6. Seth said,

    July 12, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I understand the concept just fine, but I clearly flubbed the spelling. Embarrassing (very, in fact) but I’m happy to be corrected. I’ve fixed the post. Again, thanks for catching the error, NES.

  7. thomasbrady said,

    July 12, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Seth obviously does not know his Latin, otherwise the ‘flubbed spelling’ would never have happened.

    As for me, since punning was one of my examples, I decided to have a little fun with a pun myself.

    Immanence = God in Christ.

    Imminence = God in Christ moments away from happening.

    Oh, an honest mistake, I suppose…

    As for apertophobia, openings belong to enclosures…I’m afraid notevensuperficial will need to provide Silliman with a more suitable name for a phobia—so Ron can describe his own.

    • Marcus Bales said,

      July 12, 2010 at 7:11 pm

      Oh, don’t harp on typos — we all make them, and they’re insignificant or irrelevant. There’s no sport in identifying typos by the people who make them all the time, and there’s no significance to typos by the people who make them rarely. You got the best you could hope for with Mr Abramson’s gracious acknowledgment that he’d flubbed the spelling. Take a lesson and leave it alone. Your time will come, and you’ll appreciate it if someone merely points out your flub without harping on it.

  8. thomasbrady said,

    July 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm


    Who is harping?

    notevensuperficial pointed out the error, once.

    I remarked on notevensuperficial’s correction, once.

    I’m also not sure it was merely a typo, and even so, immanence v. imminence, and the way Seth used immanence in his rebuttal of Silliman, is food for a dynamite philosophical discussion.


    • Marcus Bales said,

      July 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Okay, ‘harp’ was the wrong word. What I meant to say was that if you want to use a typo as a launching pad for a dynamite philosophical discussion, it is often more conducive to a discussion instead of a flame war (not, I hasten to add in the face of your proclivity for defensiveness, that we had one) if you say something like “So-and-so’s typo provokes some interesting questions …” rather than “So-and-so is an ignorant sumbitch because he doesn’t know the difference between …”

  9. thomasbrady said,

    July 13, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    My dear Bales,

    Res ipsa loquitur.

    If one knew Latin, one would never write imminence for immanence. To be ignorant of Latin is to be ignorant of Latin; it does not mean one is “an ignorant sumbitch;” it simply means that one is ignorant of Latin.

    Ever since the Modernists/New Critics decided that stodgy old professors of Literature and Languages were not equipped to comprehend the daring new poetry of Confederate Allen Tate, English War Propaganda officer Ford Madox Ford, jack-boot Ezra Pound, English banker T.S. Eliot, and Old South advocate John Crowe Ransom, Latin and old poetry have been out and MFA creativity has been in. Now students can swoon over the Cantos of Pound in avant-ecstasy with our MFAs in hand, safe from everything old.

    How many ‘typos’ do you think grace the Cantos? That’s rather a ‘how many angels on the head of a pin’ question, isn’t it, for the The Cantos is itself a very large typo.

    We must pick and choose our typos.

    I have singled out Mr. Abramson’s typo as a glorious example of how MFA advocates are saving our Letters from imminent destruction.

    I only fight battles I can win.


    • The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

      July 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm

      “Very funny” wrote John Simon
      When I sent him the above.
      For the true and good, that critic
      Has an unembarrassed love.

      • thomasbrady said,

        July 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm

        Thanks, Nooch.

        I have a lot of respect for John Simon.

        Simon wrote something witty re: Donald Allen’s ‘New American Poetry,’ which divided post-modern poetry into NY School, SF Renaissance, Beats, Black Mountain, and Surrealism.

        John Simon said in a review that Don Allen had “divided Gall into 5 parts…”


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