Going For Baroque

Stephen Burt identifies a new current in poetry:

[Nearly Baroque] poetry seeks the opposite of simplicity, preferring the elaborate, the contrived, taking toward sound play and simile the attitude of King Lear: “O, reason not the need!” But it can seem just simple enough in its goals. The 21st-century poets of the nearly Baroque want art that puts excess, invention, and ornament first. It is art that cannot be reduced to its own explanation, that shows off its material textures, its artificiality, its descent from prior art, its location in history. These poets want an art that can always give, or could always show, more.

Burt names the movement after Angie Estes, who wrote in a poem titled Sans Serif, “It’s the opposite of / Baroque, so I want / none of it.” He elaborates:

Again Estes summons the Baroque by name, in a poem entitled Ars Poetica:

I once dreamed a word entirely
Baroque: a serpentine line of letters leaning
with the flourish of each touching the shoulder
of another so that one breath at the word’s
beginning made them all collapse.

This word could stand for any of Estes’s poems. In them, as in much Baroque and rococo art, motion is life: nothing will stand still, and nothing stands up on its own. … Estes’s imagined motions, the serpentine curves of her irregular lines, take her not only from artwork to artwork but also from place to place, stitching together in her imagination, within a single poem, “the chasm of the Siq, the city of Petra / carved in its side” in present-day Jordan, “the unclaimed / cremated remains of those known as / the incurably insane at Oregon State Hospital,” and “the lapis lazuli seas of Hokusai seen / from outer space.”