"I was envious of fair realism," writes Barbara Guest in her poem "An Emphasis Falls on Reality." The line expresses a rarely acknowledged trait of avant-garde writing: its nostalgia, its desire to look like normal writing—which is not (how could it be?) a normal longing. The poem may envy the techniques that realism uses to produce the illusion of a complete and fully-extensive world; or the poet herself may envy the worldly success and fame that realist writers enjoy. In any case, "fair realism" means realism personified—hardly a realistic operation—as if it were a person whose career, looks, or intellect one could envy. Life may not be fair, but... More >>>