“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.