This article mentions the complicated relationship between elegy and the longing for aesthetic redemption; however, such longing is rarely distant from anger and rage, and therefore never far from the effort to make of the AIDS elegy a social genre that could offer the prospect of interaction ‘with the oblivious or indifferent’. The elegy adopts the testimonial precisely because it refuses to turn its back on the ‘urgent concern with the responsibilities of the living’. It then notes the poems by a few of the very well-known gay male poets as evidence of the way in which elegy was being adapted in this writing to the purpose of AIDS witness, somewhat in the manner of a coming out. The intertextual relation of the poems by Ingrid de Kok and Thomas Gunn signifies that here/there and now/then differences are not as self-evident as they may seem.
R. Clifton Spargo
This article describes the measure of the elegy's self-subversions through history, but finds that in its contemporary form it has reached an apex of resistance that plays out in the realm of ethics. Focusing on Elizabeth Bishop, Ann Sexton, and Jorie Graham, the article reveals that contemporary elegy is intensely self-conscious; this self-consciousness plays out not only in the terms of the self-reflexive engagement, but in its acuteness with respect to its own temporality, and to the ethical considerations that are thereby inextricably tied to it. Bishop's poetry explores the provisional negotiations of memory in an effort to establish a continuous self that, despite the best efforts, is far less stable than its everyday capability might lead to suppose. Graham's poetry has been celebrated for its modernist or postmodernist difficulties. The surest sign of anti-elegy resides in its refusal to find restitution in the function of commemoration in culture.
Maeera Y. Shreiber
This article considers the subject of survival, focusing on the continuation of Jewish rituals of mourning and memory in Jewish poetry. Poets such as Charles Reznikoff, Allen Ginsberg, and Adrienne Rich show how the kaddish is used in ways that complicate and thicken the understanding of the modern elegy. Of the three poems discussed, Reznikoff's ‘Kaddish’ is the most critical of this shift from the human to the divine; instead of directing the poem towards God. Ginsberg's ‘Kaddish’ significantly avoids the ancient Hebrew prayer altogether. In Rich's ‘Tattered Kaddish’, it is observed how the liturgical frame may be appropriated and refashioned in the service of reclaiming ritualized grieving in such a way that challenges the idea of poetic mourning as an individualized mode of expression. Rich insists that institutions, whether they be religious, political, or aesthetic, be able to accommodate pain and unmitigated loss.