Kazim Ali on “American” Poetry

From the website of the Poetry Society of America:

Attachment I think of something Naomi Shihab Nye wrote, in 1999, in her response to the question “What's American About American Poetry?” Nye said, “When I was working overseas on various occasions, poets in other countries would remark that we American poets have a luxury they do not have: we are free to write about tiny “insignificances” any time we want to…We write about personal lives, minor idiosyncrasies, familial details, tomatoes—not feeling burdened to explore larger collective issues all the time, which is something writers elsewhere often consider part of their endless responsibility.”

There is a way in which all American life, American writing and poetry included, participates in the historical (and geographical!) amnesia inherent in the concept of “America.” What is the responsibility of the writer? When you look one place, there is another place you are not looking. We will have to think for a long time to figure out where we are and who are and what we are doing in this place, thought to be ours from “sea to shining sea,” ours by some form of “manifest destiny,” some form of “American exceptionalism.”

More here.