The impossibility of comparison
Note. This is material about locating long-term change in poetry. It follows the argument about numbers in 'Allotria and allegros', posting on this site.
A variant thesis is that the idea of comparing long-term changes involves drawing an equivalence between poets, and that the low credibility of these equivocations would demolish the validity of the inferred changes. I call them equivocations, literally the operation of calling two things the same. It also has implications of verbal dexterity which finally prevents the truth from emerging. The basis for comparing two states of the literary scene, say 1975 and 2005, involves equating not merely one point with another but a few hundred points each with one another. If the pattern is too multiple and too inconstant, the equation cannot be made and so changes cannot be defined. The advanced form of this thesis is that there was once a homogeneity of the kind of people who wrote poetry, so that it was easy to compare poets of one period with poets of another. They formed a highly defined shape, which could be validly compared with another coherent shape. In each period, the poets imitated each other, unconsciously, they sounded the same. Comparing the two periods was easy also because of the persistence of literary genres, and other assumptions: you could compare a sonnet sequence of 1850 with one from 1600 without exhausting and compromising effort. Also, the number of poets active was manageably small (not all scholars would agree with this).
The crux of writing history is that people are convertible. That is, that you can assume that the differences between a poet on scene in 1960 and one on scene in 2000 are so few that they can be isolated and articulated. This is an act of equivocation, saying that y=x, which one would have to carry out on a grand scale in order to start saying 'this is how the scene changed'.
I had an hour of enthusiasm for mapping historical change and during it built two spreadsheets of about 450 names to sum up the scene in 1975 and 2005. I had the concept that you could map one onto the other and the transforms involved would be a descriptor for the historical change over a generation. Unfortunately, brief yet serious consideration of the raw data, schematic as it was, showed that the processing involved was quite intractable and beyond the means of even a team of scholars.
People like to talk about the poetry scene changing. This may be a form of knowledge not vouchsafed to mortals. It is arguable that the extent of the whole scene is unknowable. It is easy to compare a dozen famous poets of one period to a dozen poets of another period, but it is ludicrous to inflate this to the status of describing the whole scene. It would be agreeable to know how the whole pattern of poetry had changed but this may not be possible without the reduction of poets to abstract colourless scraps, which is the ejection of knowledge before we start.
If the moment of unrelieved individual presence is the core of modern poetry and the modern avatar of the purely lyrical, then developing a sociological approach is bound to be an aesthetic disaster and in effect to destroy the evidence which it pretends to be recovering.
The massified outlook in which there is absolute constancy from day to day and from moment to moment is a form of psychological alienation and the fight poetry has to win would be to bring this outlook to an end. If only for a few moments.
The idea that the 'cube of now' is everything we ever know was already an attack on the sociological approach. To reduce 40 poets to one 'comprehensive scope' is to deny the reality of the animated now, which we have claimed is the modern lyrical attitude. There are good grounds for resisting this perspective. In these terms there is no 'poetry scene' because there is no individual who has ever caught a glimpse of it: there are only partial views, intact and alluring.
To drift into personal reminiscence, I got started on this convertibility issue by hearing ideas about the rise of women's poetry. While the increase of the proportion of women poets in the set of the most well-known poets has increased very strikingly since 1955 (to take one moment), while this is quite evidently not random fluctuation but causal, while the line of change has moved consistently in this direction, I had a big problem with equating the human subjects of 1980 or 2000 with those of 1955 or 1965. If you say something has changed you are after all saying it was originally one thing and that essentially it continued being the same thing. I set out as a thought experiment to make this equivocation and complete the task of saying Andrea Brady is a mutant form of what (who) was once Patricia Beer and EJ Scovell, that Denise Riley evolved from Edith Sitwell, Stevie Smith and Fredegond Shove. This is simply an incredible proposition. Most people believe that the barriers to women publishing poetry have decreased, enough people in fact to make this proposition credible even though no one has ever admitted to resisting poetry by women. This does not stretch to believing that there are stable roles which are successively and as it were neatly occupied by different women poets, so that the literary world of 1955 has not completely collapsed and the niches available in 1980 matched up with the ones available in 1955. Surely the difference between the kind of poetry being written by Riley or Brady and the kind that was once written by EJ Scovell and Ruth Pitter is much more dramatic than the difference between poetry written by men who might know Riley and Brady (intellectual, left-wing, modernist, and so on) and the poetry -admirable and essentially incomparable as it is - composed by Riley and Brady. To put this another way: people want to believe that history is subject to human wishes, they wish to believe that magnificent transformations have occurred as a fulfilment of wishes and as a result of conscious defiance of fate by the courageous, and so they have a structural need to believe in comparability. The changes cannot be demonstrated unless you have a framework rigid enough to allow comparability. It is not an argument against conscious innovation and reform to suggest that comparability, in poetry, relies on a set of equivocations which are short of intellectual credibility.
Going back to the list of poets, 200 is the wrong count - it is much too low. Naturally the data we are dealing with are not as simple as a list of names, they are just labels for bodies of knowledge about each separate poet, concrete features which act as obstacles to free manipulation and offer resistance to any kind of pattern making. To manipulate the names you would first have to read the poetry by each name: it is the poetry we are distributing over a descriptive system, not the names. Any pattern would in fact have to be in agreement with the objective features of the literary objects we are trying to map. Let us suppose that you can make a successful mapping of each name from 1975 onto each name from 2005. In order to find the best match, you would have to compare 200 objects 200 times: 40,000 operations. Surely this is intractable. Samples of how poets see their position, based on a few interviews carried out in 2004-5, show that they relate in a primary fashion to half a dozen other poets, not to one single one, all-subsuming. Their affinities point to several positions in the older generation. So the count of 40,000 is a gross understatement. We could construct a transform which would relate 2005 to 1975: but the number crunching effort involved is so great that we can't actually carry it out.
One version of freedom is a state in which one can make utterances without the restraints of truth and matching.
Having failed in front of those intimidating (200x200) matrices, we can imagine a path out in which we simplify the setup to a smaller set of entities, two or three dozen, which are capacious because they are stylistic areas. If we could succeed in fitting the poets into these clusters, without violating the rules of pattern matching, we could map entire clusters between times without an excessive load. That is, we could compare avant garde poets of 1995 with avant garde poets of 1975 and avant garde poets of 2005, and we would have a data object with few enough features for us to work with it. (Actually there were no avant garde poets in 1955.) These shapes would have the dual quality that a poet at the start of their career could learn them and use them to generate poems, and that they survive and evolve over time. These clusters are described in a section of my book The council of heresy - or at least, candidates for being the right clusters.
Perhaps if we suppress individual traits in order to develop groups which have a history longer and more flexible than individuals, allowing a story to develop across time, we can follow changes. There is a long history of the involvement of poetry with sociology, littered with disasters on either side. If we tried to take on all the poets listed here, our consciousness would submerge, drowned by hundreds of conversations running simultaneously. This is failure. If we schematise, leaving out the mass of details flourishing in each poet, we may reach coherence - but we have lost most of the information. How could this not be failure? If we average out over a few thousand points we can produce something completely grey, a sort of sludge. In fact, any attempt to average out over several poets, or many poets, will tend to produce this grey amorphous effect. If the original was coloured, the schema has completely lost most of the features of the original. Analysing a large number of poets simply in terms of their gender, ethnic origin, or geographical situation, can produce verifiable results, but is unlikely to say anything intelligent about the literary process. That could only come from a qualitative engagement with the texts, moving then into areas which no longer have the qualities of being simply verifiable and allowing summative analysis of hundreds of texts.
The brain only turns on when its situation has this quality of presence. A variety of scenes can touch the mind fleetingly without engaging it or breaking out of the background greyness. Presence is colour simultaneity depth.
I am not suggesting that each poet has a richly coloured and diverse cast of language. Many people who write poetry have a schematic, rigid, and dull way of writing and indeed of thinking about social life. The distinction between poets and sociologists is of a different order. A great deal of sociology is successful as writing.
If, following what Spender says, poets seek out areas of risk, then the approach through million-typicality is gravely flawed. If this aesthetic is valid then poets who try to be million-typical are inherently going to fail.
Those working on educational statistics like big datasets because they pass significance tests more easily and allow more reliable statements to be made. The corollary of this is that predictions and analyses are not reliable for individuals. The actor of social likelihood is a kind of golem, mighty but without intelligence.
RL Megroz, in a fascinating book, Modern English Poetry 1882-1932, says that in around 1928 the number of poetry books being published came to be so many that one person could not keep track of them. He was actually trying to do this. Perhaps there was an era before then when committed readers could cover the whole field, and readily observe how one year was specially good and one especially bad. The number of poetry books exploded during the 1960s. It is reasonable to think that this simply made the field too large for one intellect to grasp, to integrate, to manipulate and see the deep structures of. Many people would agree that the expansion of numbers was not a flat increase but was accompanied by an even greater growth in diversity. There is much disagreement about the relative roles of reflexive stylistic differentiation and separation based on diverse sociological origins, in the composition of this new diversity. At the level of literary convention, there is agreement (again) that the system of genres has collapsed, that there is satiation and rejection of the past, that people are in love with spontaneity, and that society allows many more diverse lifestyles than in the past. The Classical and Christian backgrounds to literature have lost their value for most educated people. So even if we could cut the field of poets we are considering down, to make it manageable, the comparison with poetry of the past is unnervingly difficult; the sets face each other across a gulf rather than a set of paths which would trace transforms. In the period since 1980, some people would argue that, although the range of styles has not increased over the 1970s, and the number of poets involved has not increased substantially, the diverse styles have evolved and deepened. Comparison has grown too difficult. The chronology of stylistic change cannot be written because the data will not cohere and comparisons involve too many compromises.
The suggested use of the matrix is as a test vehicle for theories of recent history. Such a matrix offers a convenient way of testing propositions about changes over the relevant 30 years, should anyone come along with a proposal describing, or pretending to describe, such changes. A theory about change which could not be demonstrated in the terms of the matrix, with its ample ranges of data, could surely not be demonstrated at all. One would have to ask, if it does not match this set of data, what data could conceivably exist which it does match? I suspect that some versions of change over the last 30 years are wrong. We need a proving ground which would eliminate the bad ones - and increase the health and fitness of theories which survive.
Let us imagine the operation of equating Pauline Stainer with Kathleen Raine, 34 years older. This is an appealing equation in many ways. It is plausible that someone who enjoys Raine’s poetry will like Stainer’s. I admit that I find Stainer’s poetry superior, being much more developed in the pursuit of its own strengths, much more free of obsolete and decelerating legacy structures, and much more urgent and sensuous in its presentation of the miraculous. But will the equation reveal anything about the structure of the cultural field? A prominent feature of both poets is their remarkably deep internality, a detachment from the social and political phase of existence, in favour of the truths about the cosmos which theology tries to explain. They greatly prefer the unchanging to the secular. Traces of changing time are therefore scarce in their work. We could try to recover a zone of temporal change by consulting the historical changes which have occurred in theology. Certainly theologians were interested in different things in the 1940s than in the 1990s (to name periods when each poet was at a peak). We can imagine timed changes in the depths of subjectivity, a mutation in the structure of internality and the cosmological imagination. This vision does not hold up especially well. Both poets are fundamentally after a cultural shift which saw the personalisation and individuation of religion, and so of an era when personal myth came to the fore because the great sound of orthodoxy and piety was no longer there to be heard. This shift does not separate them; we are more inclined to equate everyone writing after the shift than to detect collective shifts within that extensive realm.
This was an operation involving two poets. It is here to stand for the operation of equivocating two hundred pairs of poets. The number could easily be higher. The scale of the work needed is discouraging. But after all, thinking about it tends to liberate us from essentially self-serving and managerial versions of change, whose key propositions are blown to bits by examination of the base material, available to the curious in such lavish quantities.
We can look back now at one of the key differences between sociology and poetry, namely that sociology deals with the typical and structural whereas poems deal with unique moments, dominated by an excellingly vivid self, and brought into intense focus by entraining in a series of events too energetic to be more than transient. This is a distinction which will never cease coming back - which I suppose would make it structural and impersonal. But is it true? Consideration of much of Raine’s poetry - I would not try to quantify how much - shows an attempt to make statements about the timeless. This is about the wholly not secular but is otherwise, clearly, typical and structural. This is made very clear in Raine’s extensive prose writing, where the timeless is virtually equated with the realm of art. To use a musical comparison, Raine’s poetry resembles a drone and a sort of choral music where a beat is inaudible, also liturgical music which is meant to sound as if it will go on for ever, with individual moments denying movement, as a way of inducing contemplation of the eternal. Raine is concerned always with discarding the temporal and transient. Stainer’s poetry is also not secular, but is normally concerned to find peaks of intensity and anomalies, which theologically we would suppose are showing the existence of a god who can break the rules of the universe because he made them, equally with showing the fallibility of reason and its dulling framework of expectations. She offers miracles as the humbling of reason but also as the raising of hopes. This exceptionalism offers certain resemblances to the practice of the most innovative secular poets of the period. With Raine, we are entitled to ask if the besetting search for the unvarying is artistically boring, so that the thesis poetry is about high personalised transient energies remains intact.
Tim Allen and I did in fact collect answers on influences in the book of interviews we did. Everyone listed multiple sources. To take the specific example of Simon Smith, he mentions a teacher at his school, Olive Burnside, and her then lover JD Taylor, at the outset. Later, Simon published poems with Taylor and David Rees in a pamphlet called boldface. Taylor was disturbed (Simon's description) as a PhD student by a don called J H Prynne. Simon went off in 1979 to the University of Canterbury where he was taught by people including Michael Grant, Andrew Ross. At this point he describes reading Prynne for the first time and says 'the discovery of this book [Down Where Changed] was the breakthrough for me'. At Kent, he says 'it seemed perfectly natural to study the line of Williams, Olson, Creeley and then feed that back into Prynne, Peter and John Riley, Eric Mottram, Allen Fisher etc.' While there, he also had contact with Anthony Barnett, who was a sort of mentor. By 1991 he was writing significant original poetry which was published as Night Shift. "I was also surrounded by good and helpful friends who took the work seriously: Anthony Mellors, John Taylor, Charles Bainbridge, David Rees, Harry Gilonis, and you, Andrew.' He mentions as 'books that turned things around for me' titles by John Seed, Prynne, Peter Riley, Denise Riley, John Riley, Kelvin Corcoran, Andrew Duncan, and Tom Raworth. I have some memory of this happening, as in the late 90s I co-edited a magazine with Simon, with cover designs often by David Rees, and later with Charles Bainbridge as co-editor. The count of names is up to about 40. This may well be an understatement - the poets Simon drew deeply from would be more numerous, there are many suggestions we could make. I’m sure Stephen Rodefer should be there, for one.
What Simon was discovering in these scenes the kind of person who might read his poetry as well as those he could learn about writing from. Not all the people mentioned were writers - influence from talk is also important, barriers between talk and poetry can only be flimsy and conditional.
(That pamphlet had a picture of a stone Anglo-Saxon sculpture which included a moustache. It sticks out. This is presumably the 'boldface'.) We can think now of the idea that one poet of 1995 would match up with only one poet from 1975 (or 1960?). Simon has mentioned 40 people in just one interview. How could we get hold of the processing power to link 200 poets to 40 different poets each?
I don't think that anyone deals primarily with one dominant elder voice and so I think the whole anxiety of influence thing is overblown. It's hard for critics to study multiple influences, but that doesn't justify a fantasy that one Venerable Old Chief is dominant for anyone. Poetic history presents itself to brilliant young poets as a kind of old battle site where thousands of startling and fabulous machines are lying around the landscape, in poor repair, but free for the taking. There is this blissful state of young poets where they think everything is free to be taken and it doesn’t occur to them that older poets have any right to their ideas.
The inspiring thing for a young poet may not be contact with thrilling texts but contact with a social scene where people are committed to modern art and which makes it seem that modern poetry is worth writing. This group presence may break down powerful inhibitions naturally and unconsciously and without a clear ideas content. This resource which throws open the gates of language may be simultaneously the one most worth mapping and the one which is most unseizable, being volatile, fast moving, and leaving no recoverable traces. Perhaps we can try to imagine a map of poetic networks in the country at the present moment. They surely exist, but there is no kind of infrared camera we could use to catch their shape and flimmering hot spots. There are great risks in tracking poetic history just by comparing texts without using the interview technique to capture the poet's subjective experience.
Idealistic dream states are what drives the whole industry. There is however a difference between states based on self-idealisation and those based on imagining ideal relations in and with nature. It can be argued that poetry which is cut off from these dream states cannot truly succeed.
If everything starts, everything stops. I was constructing a timeline diagram of recent British poetry for an American magazine. This was fun but was abandoned in the end. It was easy to show things starting - these were events. But most of the area of the diagram was featureless and boring because what I found was just things going on - they just flowed on for decades. The typical thing was for a major poet to find a groove and to go on creating inside it for thirty or forty years. This did not make for a diagram that caught the eye. So I became interested in things stopping. We were sure that everything runs out, everything consumes vital energies which in the end are burnt out, but it was too difficult defining the moment when something ran out. Perhaps the crash and exhaustion of great creative rushes provide the key moments of poetic history - buried by denial, muffled by endless attempts to reproduce the effect when it’s too late, but definitive. The currents of poetry which are no longer around must have come to a halt sometime.
In order to see all the relationships between a notional set of 400 poets, one would need a vantage point elevated above all earthly obstacles and from which a line of sight would reveal objects disposed over a great area of the surface of the earth. One cannot sketch this geometrical arrangement of light tracks without noticing that it corresponds to a geometry sketched by quite a number of poets in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and in fact that it has many features in common with the schemes of naive and idealistic artists as chronicled by Harald Szeemann. We are looking at a queer, phantom notion that sociology is the phantom of idealistic dream states and that science is the residue when these states pour through a brain enough times to radically change the configuration of the landscape and debouch into the reality principle.
The unreality of the mass vision quality is the telltale trace of an archaic megalomania which after first creating the geology of the scene has vanished from view.
The idea of ancestry is a great release for poets, almost on a level with the striving to become an ancestor through sex. There are transforms which generate the map of today from the map of 30 or 50 years ago, but they are transforms at molecular level, mutating and assembling to yield the sub-units which build up to make poems. They are extremely numerous. This is a programme of consumption and occupation.
Everyone would deny resembling other poets but at the level of capturing fabulous linguistic objects from the past they are all for it. Identifying such clusters might expose a landscape whose parts are moving slowly but inexorably in relation to each other, of which some are perishing and some fabulously and greedily growing. The markets or fan bases evolved at the same time, allowing for a vivid competition for dominance, with some groups irresistibly accumulating power and attracting new members. This could resemble the manœuvring of rival groups at a court, displaying in order to acquire prestige, intriguing to acquire influence, spreading rumours to weaken other factions. Like a court where courtiers compete for favours by being charming, this is an economy of pleasure, although for some people it goes well beyond a game. The game can be lost, with rafts of poets breaking away and sinking. The phenomena of cliques and mobbing have as a corollary the act of withdrawal, where entire groups move out rather than tolerate a false linguistic environment. This was taking place on a large scale in the mid Sixties and the split of that time has notoriously not been closed up even now.
The whole realm of poetic imitation may turn out to be a variety of self-insertion. In 1977, Mottram wrote an essay on 'place in poetry' for an exhibition at the Polytechnic of Central London, which set out to relate the use of landscape and territory by English poets to a programme, and especially to the influence of weird American poet Charles Olson (1920-70). A magazine founded in 1966 called The English Intelligencer had linked together a group of poets directly under the influence of Olson and very interested in writing about landscape, cultural geography, deep time, the relation of the body to the space surrounding it, inner-body sensations as a perceived space, etc. The magazine was linked to Olson at its inception, because JH Prynne was Olson’s best pupil and was an inspiration for TEI. Yet Mottram, an obsessive documenter, failed in 1977 to mention the existence of this magazine or Prynne’s direct link to Olson and massive influence on English underground poetry. This was because Eric couldn’t bear to think that he had never met Olson and Prynne had been Olson's friend. He wanted to own the Olson Franchise and it was just unacceptable that he had arrived too late to do that. Hence you have this staggering incompleteness in one of the founding documents of the Underground. All this discussion about geography misses territorialisation, the most obvious phase of the apprehension of space. The claim to be influenced may actually be a claim to own a territory.
People want to say, “I changed the rules”. This probably means 'I created this space'. This is a pervasive fantasy, and the scene is largely made up of fantasies. This one needs the assumption that there are rules which everyone else is following. This may be wholly untrue. Olson’s essay on ‘open field’ poetry relies on an assumption that everyone else, the whole history of poetry in European languages up until Olson, was based on limiting suppositions which Olson has now bulldozed through. The truth value of this is probably zero. What comes over is simply the wish to dominate. He never demonstrated the presence of the limits, that he proclaimed the end of, in any particular text. This grandiosity also resembles the attitude of certain employed scholars, who make statements like ‘the whole Western tradition is based on certain assumptions, and I know what they are, and I am their guardian and attorney’, etc. Such statements seem ridiculous now but were being made, in the years of crisis at universities around 1968-75, by professors who felt challenged by the counter-culture. They represented academics venturing into politics and had little substance beyond a wish to give unruly pupils a failing mark.
Picking up this material on ownership, authority, ancestry, and not least disqualification and expulsion gives you a toxic legacy - prospects for converting it into an intellectually valid set of statements about influence and a shared history are small to vanishing.
The two most obvious stylistic groupings on the scene are the London School and the Cambridge School. Shared ideas, flowing outward from a point source, are very prominent here. It is striking that people have denied that either school exists. (Source: an email from Peter Riley saying there never was a C*b*ge school and an oafish posting from Laurence Upton saying that there never was a school of London.) I think the problem is that people internalise a mass of shared rules so deeply that it is no longer obvious to them that they are barricaded inside that set of rules and so it appears to them that they are boundlessly original and self-producing.
In 1967 Mary-Sue revealed that the next step in poetry was conceptual improvised acoustic art, or CACA as it was known. The ongoing debate about form had world historically resolved itself in this ontologically necessary form. Althusser telephoned Bill Wyman to say she was wrong. Its emphasis on the dematerialisation of the art object and yet simultaneously on the material necessity structuring its semantic armature were separate axes in the re-analysis and stylisation of the speech chain. Roughly, this implied that the air in which the words were uttered was tightly controlled while the selection of words was left to chance. Early performances concentrated on the phoneme P. "It is the most modern of phonemes", Mary-Sue commented. Extensive coloured documentation packs with the theoretical basis for the work were issued. 'Mary-Sue condemns the bourgeoisie to a lingering decline as it asphyxiates in the pulverous debris of its own signifying systems' - Time Out. Ornette Coleman said it sounded plain weird. Rude Pravo issued a coded disavowal the following year. RS Thomas wrote to her saying that a new era of verbal art had opened and everything old was now obsolete even if it involved Christian nationalist allegories about rotting sheep and sterile mountain pastures.
Note on essays on time
Peter Yates wrote on 'the cube of now' and there was a particular theory of time which was expressed by the Apocalyptics, and which can be contrasted with other theories of time. This was the Concept of the book at one time, but I got rid of all that and converted it into ‘The Long 1950s’.
I had difficulties with the idea of women’s poetry as composing one continuous flow because embodying an historical unchanging female nature. It would have been good to write a history of poetry in those terms, but it didn’t work for me. I couldn't construct a comparison between 'women's poetry of the 1950s' and 'women's poetry of the 1990s', the idea of a basic similarity was too weak. This is despite the fact that women were oppressed as a group and that the last 50 years have seen them liberated as a group. I think the problem is that a book of poems is not equivalent to History and this is why an attempt to make a group of say a hundred books of poetry add up to the History of Women must crash and burn.
I think there was a deep denial that the feminist revolt which began around 1970 was a revolt against the generation of their mothers and not just an emotionally lucrative revolt against men. But it’s pretty obvious that the women poets of around 1970 began by rejecting everything about the poetry of women born in the 1920s or 1930s or earlier. It’s no good talking about a revolution as if it was an act of inheritance and assimilation.
So I had a chapter on the theory of immediacy expounded by Spender in the 1940s, on existentialism, on Berdyaev (who Spender and the Apocalyptics both relied on), then on immediacy in the 1960s, on historicism, etc. Then I had this attempt (the essay above) to draw up Equivocations and so develop a theory of what has changed over a forty-year period. The identification of change allows you to identify the realm of the individual, obeying rules and yet having a vital space in which they can be free by exerting their will, and their powers of formal inventiveness if they are writing poetry.
The approach through genres was much more successful. Instead of mapping 450 individuals onto 450 individuals, you map 12 genres onto 12 genres. If you get the genres right, you can say something about thousands of poets. So instead I wrote a book about the history of genres. The book became 'the long 1950s' because the most obvious thing was that there had been conventions in the 1950s and in the 1960s the whole system was under deep challenge and there was terrific innovation. However 50s-style poetry did not stop, and this is why you have 'the long 1950s', which finally did waver and dissolve, during the 1980s.
I have grave doubts about the history of poetry. Texts have an internal time but if you allow visibility of other passages of time you weaken or destroy that time. It is in its way total. I suppose this is the 'cube of now'.
"Mary-Sue' is a generic name for the hero of a genre of 'fanfic'. Due to a process of digital corruption and identity theft, real books can be infested and taken over by these fanfic frolics. Mary-Sue is hard to say no to.