The Zombie-Modernists are:

1. Ignorant of material, social, political, elitist origins of Modernism.

2. Ignorant of the vicious, exclusionary, philistine nature of Modernism.

3. Ignorant of how much ‘Make It New’ was fascist razing and leveling, not  democratic or revolutionary building.

Here’s what the Futurist Manifesto, published in 1909 on the front page of a major daily newspaper in Paris, said: 

We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn of woman.”

The critic Marjorie Perloff, whose job is to glorify kooky, 20th century modernism, excuses these words, saying Marinetti didn’t really mean it.

Perloff is not the only one, of course, who finds the manifesto-ism of Pound and Futurism full of “charm.”  Here’s more from that 1909 document:

“Courage, audacity and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.”

We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunisitic or utilitarian cowardice.”

“We affirm that the world’s magnficence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed.  A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath…”

“We intend to exalt aggresive action, a fervent insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.”



  1. poetryandporse said,

    October 26, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Poetry Foundation article in the New Yorker from 2 years ago I was alerted to by an interesting post by Johnson at digital emunction, on the opulent lifestyle of poetry foundation president John Barr, and a book of poems he wrote, in which Johnston calls ‘blackface’, and another poster questions because it is the voice, sound, that is the medium. An interesting aside in a blog which has been off the boil since that post, but there are the two fascinating reads which give the lowdown on the man at the top.

    The gen on Ruth Lilly is also dealt in the New Yorker article: still living and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals most of her life.

    Also in the new yorker article:

    “The annual budget for the foundation’s Web site, which débuted a year ago, is more than a million dollars. The site has newsy items, blogs, a poetry best-seller list, and an archive of poems from a wide range of poets, helpfully indexed by subject matter. It is a boon to poets—whose publishers get paid for the use of the work—and to best men. Emily Warn, the editor of the site, has published two collections of poems” –

    No longer there. Now Trav, but reading these articles, especially the new yorker, you get a sense of things, behind the scenes reality of the chain of command at the gaffe.

  2. poetryandporse said,

    October 26, 2009 at 12:45 am

    oops. she might be there, i dunno. But reading what the organ grinders are up to, in intricate detail, Barr’s vision for the Foundation: it puts into perspective what the fifty buck hacks are doing. The vibe from the top will filter down, and this crew clearly view themself, not as outsider rebels on minimum wage battling from the barricades; but as well heeled quad-crossers in button down and loafers, intellectually speaking.

    A night with John and a few of the principle mid west actors in this moneyed drama, talking of how they are gonna take the world, make poetry relevant, and on the 9-5, expenses, health insurance, living the dream bro..

    It occured to me that far from writing to Barr to tell him of Trav’s treatment of the rads, it may even have been Barr who gave the order for our chop. Considering the green-eyed forces arrayed against our man with the 200 mill to spend, if it did come from the top – we should see it as an honour, that a triumvirate of travelling minstrels could be considered as a threat to the dream of the foetry team putting Ruth Lilly’s money to good effect, by carving out a decent number for ’emselves.

    Yeah, a lot clearer now, the reality of who we’re dealing with, innit?

  3. thomasbrady said,

    October 26, 2009 at 11:02 am


    John Barr and Dana Gioia showed up together in Cambridge, MA a few years back to celebrate some federal funds coming in for local poet and Harvard professor Henry Wadworth Longfellow historical sites; Gioia gave a warm and cozy talk on Longfellow, and to make sure everyone felt good, compared Longfellow’s verse to rap music. Barr and Gioia stood out from the crowd, I remember, with very nice tans, looking the statesman/businessman part as they charmed the blueblood ladies of Cambridge.

    Longfellow is a fine poet, and I have no problem with Gioia’s role. Gioia’s famous essay was an important one in raising the issue of foetics; but as I’ve said elsewhere, Gioia did give the foetic modernists a free pass, thus robbing his thesis of the truth of history; for instance, Gioia gave an example of the glory days of modernism when poetry was open and free of academic subsidy and insularity: John Crowe Ransom publishing Robert Lowell’s poetry in his critical journal, The Kenyon Review. Well, of course, Ransom was one of the engineers of all that Gioia decried in his essay, explicitly arguing that professionals in the academy should decide poetic taste, and Lowell left Harvard to study with Ransom.

    As for Barr and the Foundation, I need to do some more research on that, but your thesis might have merit.