Frederick Pollack


Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press. Other of his poems and essays have appeared in Hudson Review, Southern Review, Fulcrum, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), Representations and elsewhere. Poems have most recently appeared in the print journals Iota (UK), Orbis (UK), Naked Punch (UK), Magma (UK), The Hat, and Bateau. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Snorkel, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Denver Syntax, Barnwood, elimae, Wheelhouse, Mudlark, Shadow Train and elsewhere. Pollack is an adjunct professor of creative writing at George Washington University, Washington, DC.

ars poetica
Recently, in mainstream poetry journals and websites, I've seen poets praised for being "humble." The term epitomizes what's wrong with the mainstream. Humility is a virtue only for a timid and decadent art. Great poetry seeks greatness, and greatness in poetry means vision.

Vision means a vision of the whole. Since I reject religion in any form, the whole, for me, is history. History includes the future, the success or failure of intelligence, the faintest velleities and the most obscure fantasies, as well as all the past. The belief that there is a private life apart from the big scary forces of politics and economics is a comforting ideology. Poets who endlessly chronicle their childhoods, however movingly, neither transcend that ideology nor carry culture forward. "Nature," likewise, means nothing as long as it is treated as the mere backdrop of a mood. Real poets connect the large and the small, the subjective and the impersonal; they are either led by a vision or try to build one from their perceptions.

Content, therefore, is vital in my poetics. The Mallarmean project, which despised content or saw it as an epiphenomenon of style, had in its time an important, liberating role; it has since become an excuse for lack of imagination. The pseudo-avant garde known as the Language poets are for me a waste of time; their master, Ashbery, is a brilliant entertainer, a Seinfeld of the imagination. Any style is a technology, a means, not an end. In their worship of language, and their dismissal of individual sensibility, Langpos are as parochially American in one way as the narcissists of the mainstream are in another.

My masters include Hölderlin, Ekelöf, Jeffers, Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert, Montale, Oppen, Brecht, Hikmet, E. A. Robinson, and HD. My great exemplar is Shelley; my distant star, Blake. The contemporary American poets I think likeliest to endure are Seidel and Bidart. My hope—apart from final satisfaction with my own work—is a poetry that will outlive and supplant the novel, and which will be a testament, not a symptom, of our times.