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POETRYETC Home

POETRYETC  2002

POETRYETC 2002

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Subject:

Re: What language?

From:

Robin Hamilton <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Poetryetc provides a venue for a dialogue relating to poetry and poetics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 28 May 2002 16:53:10 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (78 lines)

> On Tue, 28 May 2002 14:11:29 +0100, Robin Hamilton
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> >
> >
> >                                    Is'nt there
> >    this local stir in us all? --
> >    flick of the thumb, a word's relish,
> >    the clitoral tick of an accent,
> >    wee lick of spit or lovejuice?
> >
> >Copyright forbids me to quote more, but the whole poem could stand as
both
> a
> >meditation on and an acting-out of the point dave raises.
> >
> >Robin
>
>
> Impossible! out OF QUESTION! Tom Paulin would never state such
trivialities.
> ((have you seen the question mark? at the end of the stanza?)

Indeed -- I included it in my transcription.  (And, incidentally, it's +not+
at the end of the 'stanza' -- the 'speaker' [the second quoted voice to
appear in the poem] continues with a further line:  .... / I'd call that a
brave kindness."  before we switch to the overall Speaker again.)

I could (and perhaps should) have noted that the passage (not stanza -- the
poem isn't written in stanzas) is enclosed in quotation marks, and is the
response of the "Lagan Jacobin" to the "Orange dand[y]".

The poem begins with the Speaker (I chose this as a neutral term), who says:

    ...
    I imagine him
    as the state's intelligence,
    a lean man in a linen suit
    who has come to question me
    for picking up a pen
    and taking myself a shade seriously.

I take the first quoted voice -- "Paisley's plain tongue, his cult ..." as
being the the flinty mandarin.  To which there's no reply:

    I've an answer ready in the sun
    but [sic] my eye tines the grass ...

The flinty mandarin continues: "Your Lagan Jacobins, they've gone ..."
Then the second (quoted) speaker begins the passage which I excerpted
earlier:  "Why not, though?  Isn't there / ... " And so on.

There are at least three registers at play in the poem (and obviously I
wouldn't suggest anything so simplistic as to identify any of them as the
Unmediated Historical Tom Paulin).  However, there's nothing in the poem to
suggest an attempt at distancing the author from the speaker.  They may not
be "identical", but we're not in full-blown persona territory here.

I'm sorry that my ignorance of "postmodernist and postcolonial linguistic
theory" prevents me from coming out with something as sophisticated as:

> Impossible! out OF QUESTION! Tom Paulin would never state such
trivialities.

As to:

> But Randolph would better qualified to speak for the Irish....

Indeed, I'd love to hear what Randolph has to say (especially on the use of
the word "wee" in the original passage I quoted).  Ever since I read this
poem when it was first published in the TLS years ago, it's intrigued and
fascinated me, but I still don't think I follow all the references.  On the
other hand, "Call him Sir Peregrine Falkland", with it's neat juxtaposition
of _The Alchemist_ to contemporary politics, seems to me +exactly+ the sort
of linguistic game Tom Paulin likes to play.

Robin

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