But it´s also the case that I am a Modernist at heart. For example, I have little in common with most Americanists because I really don´t want to study eighteenth- and nineteenth century American literature, which is too didactic, too overly moral for my taste. I´m being partly facetious here – of course I love Melville and Dickinson and Whitman – but I have a greater affinition to European modernism, whether German, French or Eastern European, than I do to American studies. And although I´ve written a great deal on ‘postmodernism’, I have come to believe that the real revolution in the arts came at the beginning of the twentieth century and that it came in Europe. The World War I period is the period I love. I think I´m a Modernist in the sense that I do belive in art as somehow transcendent and I care about its formal values and admire difficulty. Then, too, I am more at home with irony than, say, with melodrama or invective.
I think poetry is by its very deffinition elitist. I think that ther whole discussion of elitism is so silly. I just heard, the other night at a discussion in New Haven, someone say ‘then isn’t Bob Dylan really the best poet because he’s not elitist?’ Everybody loves Bob Dylan and knows those lyrics. And so he’s the great poet of the period. But the truth is, so far as the ‘public’ is concerned, the real action is not in a Bob Dylan song but the ball game. The public doesn’t like Billy Collins any more than they like Charles Bernstein or Susan Howe. Most of the people I know in my day-to-day life never read any poetry. They might read some novels. By literature they mean novels. And they might read novels, new novels, or even classical novels, but they don’t read poetry. So poetry has always been elitist and, after all, if you think of the Metaphysical poets living in a manuscript culture, or you think of even Wordsworth or the Romantic poets, it was always elitist.