K. Silem Mohammad (Lime Tree) contends that "new forms" in poetry can be just as stultifying as the conventional kind if the poet comes to believe that "the mechanics of composition are more important than the experience created by the work."
He goes on to suggest that Ezra Pound's command to "make it new"
does not mean to reinvent the wheel every time you write a poem. The original image associated with this phrase was that of the (same) sun rising every morning, always new. The wording could just as easily be "make it fresh," or "make it seem as though new." It's more about what the reader is enabled to perceive than it is about the writer's use of novel formal techniques.
I would agree that the attempt to create something "new" in either poetry or fiction does not necessarily involve the reinvention of form, if that means ignoring literary history. The poetic "wheel" would require reinvention only if it could be established that the wheel wasn't really a wheel after all. One's precursors not only wrote poems of a sort one no longer fancies, but they didn't actually get at what poetry really is, did not instigate or participate in a tradition that can now be accepted as properly "poetic."
In this sense, making it "fresh" seems entirely sufficient, although one could still be "reinventing" if this is understood to mean adding to the existing tradition something that hasn't been tried before (or something that hasn't been tried in this or that way). A writer who thinks of him/herself as "innovative" because he/she has determined to take nothing for granted, to assume that literary forms can always be reshaped and reconceived, would, in my opinion, be justified in using that designation. This would be less a matter of developing "novel formal techniques" than regarding the existing presumptions about form to be always potentially expandable.
Mohammad's own definition of form as "near-physicalizations of possibility, not yet quite frozen into fact, but charged with fact's imminence" thus seems entirely satisfactory to me, although I would be less inclined to think of achieved form as "fact" except insofar as the poem produced does indeed embody the sense of potential with which the poet began. Even here, however, the "physicalizations of possibility" would need to be inherent in the poem itself, represented in its formal turns and rhetorical processes but not necessarily literally "physicalized." The poem does not seek to be encased in its form but to demonstrate in its pursuit of form both the strugge to attain aesthetic completion and the ultimate impossibility of achieving that goal, especially if it entails reaching a perfection of sorts in the exploitation of form. Other, equally good if not yet imagined explorations in form are always possible. (The work of Wallace Stevens seems to me a good example of this kind of approach to aesthetic form.)
Undoubtedly it is still easier to debate this conception of "form" in poetry than in fiction. For better or worse, fiction is still tied to story as its irreducible form, even though "story" (telling it, relating it, making it known) is more an excuse for invoking form than a formal property itself. Thus, different kinds of narrative strategies, different ways of arranging and disclosing the story, are acceptable, are even praised as the appropriate kind of "experiment" in fiction, as long as they are there in order finally to present the story in the most dramatically effective manner. But few readers and critics seem willing to consider other kinds of formal structures, structures that foreground language and the non-linear ways in which it might be manipulated, that experiment with other "shapes" a work of fiction might take, as an alternative to the predominance of story. This need not mean dispensing with narrative altogether--although at this point the distinction between poetry and prose fiction might break down in a way that could provide further fruitful experiment and critical discussion--but it would mean acknowledging once and for all that, now we are entering a second century in which visual means of storytelling are proving more effective at satisfying most people's narrative needs, "telling a story" is not the most relevant skill a good fiction writer possesses.
It does seem to me that the wheel that has allowed the oxcart of fiction to keep moving for the past 250 years has begun to break down due to overuse and the tremendous weight it has been asked to bear. A sturdier, more adaptable model might be in order.