When you read the details of the publication of Eliot's "The Wasteland," you realize that the literary modernists were outsiders. They defined themselves as outsiders. The mainstream publishing world, and the literary establishment of the day, were something apart from them. The modernists were a genuine avant-garde.
That the movement was long ago coopted and embraced by the literary establishment doesn't alter this. The leading figures of modernism-- Joyce, Eliot, Pound, Stein, Hemingway-- came from outside. The REJECTION of their art was proof that what they were creating was different, a new road away from the accepted.
Literary modernism was the creation of one man, a visionary, Ezra Pound, who had the vision to see the writers he knew and liked as a movement. Within the larger movement were smaller movements, failed attempts. The creation of the overall vision progressed in fits and starts.
Who has the vision to see beyond the now? It's necessary for an art to renew itself.
The progress of a new avant-garde is hindered by the existence of a fake avant-garde. How do you know it's fake? Because it represents power.
A revolutionary art movement isn't recognized until the recognition of landmarks; artistically radical signposts that turn the art on its head. Once the movement is recognized, it's over.
To young writers: Writing programs, almost by definition, accept only the now. But the true task of the new writer is to destroy the now.