by Johannes Goransson on Aug.24, 2011
It seems that Fence (the journal, the press) has reached a kind of iconic status where it’s being used as a short-hand with all kinds of associations.
Most recently, Tony Hoagland uses it to mean the counterfeit inheritors of O’Hara, the fake poets who are insincere and unclear and possibly degenerate. But at the same time, Hoagland argues that they are the zeitgeist; while he, and the heroic few true poets (true descendants of O’Hara), are genuine as opposed to this nameless mass of poets (they are both numerous and strangely coterie-ish in Hoagland’s paradigm).
That is to say, “Fence” replaces the names of the degenerate poets (he only names them in the footnotes). Fence is kitsch because it’s influential, because it is zeitgeist; while the true poets necessarily go against the zeitgeist. It is the non-conformity that gives prestige, and poetry is very much subject to prestige.
Elsewhere I’ve seen Fence be treated as the opposite: they are the establishment, they have prestige. But in that context, the establishment is a negative. In fact in both cases it is rejected using some version of anti-kitsch rhetoric: it’s fake, counterfeit. (And as I keep repeating: so is Art.)
Of course the name itself suggests a kind of “hybrid”, a kind of compromise, a sitting on the fence and not being able to decide which way to go. But to me Fence was been anything but a fence-sitter; it has published a lot of the most provocative, un-compromising books of the past ten years (not just Montevidayo’s own Joyelle McSweeney, but Cathy Wagner, Chelsea Minnis, Aaron Kunin, Ariana Reines etc), books that don’t seem to have all that much to do with the two cold-war poles that supposedly make up US poetry (the reductive ‘langpo vs quietists’ model).