Laura: "I suspect that the best writers are always in some capacity working within a tradition while working against all traditions and find their peace in the singularity of that experience."
Gary: "I think it is up to us to make the discourse about poetry be solid and useful and illuminating. And it is up to us to illuminate the variety of poets.... With poetry: the poet, everything is the poet."
Laura: "I like this: the. Which makes it difficult to generalize. If it is the poet, then, what is the variety?"
This dialogue only almost happened, so it has the strengths and weaknesses of any reconstruction. I hope Laura and Gary don't mind. In any case, the idea I want to introduce with it emerges from my initial reaction to the first remark.
Shouldn't it read, I thought, "the best writers are always . . . working within THE tradition while working against SOME traditions and find their peace in the singularity of that experience." The argument for putting it is this way is that once you have the substantive, but indefinite, article "a" you really already have a singularity. Whatever it is that gives the writer in question a tradition, one that is not necessarily shared by other writers, imbues that writer with a constitutive difference. So there is no need for any conflict or contrast with anything, let alone everything.
Articles (a, an, some, the), as their name suggests, are crucial bits of grammar in regard to the articulation of experience. (I wonder if "all" is an article of this kind in Laura's sentence.) Conjunctions (and, but, if) of course also "join" parts of the sentence, but in a hamfisted, rough and ready sort of way, since the words or clauses to be conjoined remain intact after the operation. The article reaches into the word it joins, defining not just the structure of the sentence, but the texture of the experience sentenced.
But I don't think I'm just being a stickler for logical grammar here. THE poet, who is, according to Gary, everything, cannot be just any old poet, but is an indication toward the full variety of poets (the multitude contained, however imperfectly, by Walt Whitman). It is within THE tradition, when contrasted with the available, off-the-shelf fashions ("some" traditions) that the poet finds her haeceity, or this-ness, i.e., completes the work.
I'd like to defend the idea that "the best writers" of neo-classicism, romanticism, modernism and post-modernism were all doing the same thing and that the best writers of our generation will be doing that as well. Not against all tradition, but toward the one tradition.
What Kitasono, again, called "pure and orthodox poetry".