[(essay date 2005) In the following essay, Patke discusses "Incantata" as a postmodern poem and suggests the influence of Samuel Beckett on the verse.]
Poetry and the Two "Post-"s: Introductory Claims
Notions that qualify a term through the use of the prefix "post'"--such as "postmodern"--are at once both opportune and importunate, especially in relation to poetry. What makes them importunate is their ill-concealed propensity to crowd diversity and difference beneath an umbrella of bent concepts and threadbare clichés. What makes them opportune when it comes to talking about poetry is the likelihood that the "post-" might offer some account of how the aftermath of "modern" might be implicated in the ways in which the poem can be read. The reading serves two aims: a) it helps one clarify one's response to specific instances of contemporary poetry, and b) it uses instances of contemporary poetry to test the usefulness of a discourse informed by the "post-modern." My claims are contingent upon the poem I propose to examine here: Paul Muldoon's "Incantata." The notion of "postmodern" does not have to be treated as if it were necessary to how the poet went about the writing of the poem, nor does my argument imply that what is sustainable on the basis of a reading of one poem could be valid for other poems or poets.