“Poetry makes nothing happen.” “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Incessantly repeated, typically taken as truisms. But are they true? In this unique and timely anthology, H. L. Hix invites more than 150 contemporary poets and scholars to counter those claims.
The familiar pronouncements from Auden and Adorno are, after all, a full human lifespan old, made at particular historical moments, in particular cultural contexts, and from particular subject positions. Contributors to Counterclaims were asked “What must or might be said now about poetry?” Their incisive answers sum to a broad and luminous vision of poetry: what it does, what it is, what it might be, what it shows us about ourselves.
“Poetry is not dying for want of an audience,” H. L. Hix boldly opens his meditation on the why and wherefore of poetry, Demonstrategy, but rather, “humanity is dying for want of poetry.” His argument for the necessity of poetry, its “ethopoesis,” as Hix theorizes, is a capacious inquiry into what comprises a poetry adequate to our cultural need. Chapters focus forcefully on matters both urgent and cerebral (poetry against patriarchy and tyranny, poetry for reparation and dissent). Drawing on a wealth of ancient and modern thinkers about language and poetry (ranging from Herakleitos to the astonishing Jan Zwicky) to investigate various aspects of the field, Hix builds a brilliant case for poetry’s cause. Like T. S. Eliot’s Tradition, which alters with the publication of the new (the really new) work of artistic genius, the set of great philosophical defenses of poetry must now move over and make room for H. L. Hix’s scorching-smart Demonstrategy.
— Cynthia Hogue, author of In June the Labyrinth