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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:

Wed, 29 May 2002 00:19:03 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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Erminia:

My apologies for the delay in answering this -- my ISP has just been down
for three hours.  Which wouldn't be too bad, except I assumed the problem
was with my software.  <sigh>

<<
I am back from college. I have taken down the shelf my copy of the wind
dog iwth my mind to Muldoon''s 'Meeting the British', and
Heaney's 'Kinship'.
>>

... both of whom are an earlier 'generation' of writers, and both of whose
articulation of politics +in+ their poems differs from Tom Paulin's, so I'm
not (yet) sure of the relevance of this.  Especially given Tom's ambivalence
towards Seamus Heaney.  (Though there is a possible recalling, in WDYSOTNQ,
of Heaney's "Digging".)

<<
In  "And Where Do You Stand on the National Question?" Paulin is
questioning Gramsci's old marxist notion of the between the State and the
Intellectuals.
>>

... well, leave aside the intrusion of Gramsci, the phrasing of "Paulin is
questioning", would seem to make a simplistic identification of the main
Speaker of the poem with the Historically Extant Tom Paulin.  And if you
accept that speaker2 is the voice of the Speaker, engaging in a dialogue
with the flinty mandarin, this would seem to confirm my initial point.

<<
In being a critical approach to historical matrxism, it has amomng the
other various specificities a critique of the historical referent which
defies both the real presuppositions of its genesis and the hoistorical
processes in relation tow hich it develops itself.
>>

We seem to be reading different poems -- you're deploying an abstract
overlay that totally ignores all the specifics ladled into the poem.
(Perhaps too many -- the poem wasn't reprinted from _The Liberty Tree_ in
TP's _Selected Poems_.  A shame, I feel,  but it suggests that TP felt it
wasn't as essential as some others there.)

<<
It is a kind of critical marxism based on the observation that the social
historical conditions have changed. See Paulin's lines:

>    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 really don't follow this -- changed?  Surely the two speakers are meant to
be seen as contemporaries, drawing on very different senses of an
+immediate+ Irish identity?  I could go further -- why "flinty mandarin"?

<<
The State they [Paulin and Muldoon] are both talking against is the English
Government. They are both equally  criticizing the postcolonialist affair in
the Ulster from a  non -orthodox Marxist perspective.
>>

Possibly true (though I have reservations), but again utterly abstract as a
reading of the poems, avoiding a direct engagement in saying anything about
particulars.

<<
So, the discourse Paulin  is making is not dissimilar from what I was
saying, actually, it is pretty the same. indeed, as far as his  texts
show - and also as far as I am concerned, knowing Tom Paulin quite well,
as an intellectual and a friend.
>>

Well, I doubt this, from what I know of Tom, which is almost certainly less
than you, but goes back further.  But then, as we live in a post-modernist
universe, in which the slippage of referent will never be resolved, we may
simply have two different texts, either of the poet or the poem.

<<
But here now I have a problem..

If this list will keep suffering such an unbalance of information among
members - if most of the ongoing threads keep amounting to a vagueness of
ideas and a knowledge of poetics and literary theory, people might no
longer be interested in participating.
>>

This, of course, begs the question by prioritising "a knowledge of poetics
and literary theory" (although I have to say that my limited knowledge of
both still causes me to automatically grimace at the naiveté of remarks such
as 'Paulin is questioning ...', with its apparently unquestioning
identification of the speaker of a poem with its author.  Or, in an earlier
post, the chronologically patronising tone of 'the glorious historical
English of Shakespeare'.  Shakespeare didn't write in historical English, he
wrote in contemporary English.  It just happens that this was in the late
sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  Saussure, thou shouldst be
living at this hour!!

<<
I thought the present themes we are discussing of postcolonial policies
>>

Well, +I+ thought we were discussing a particular poem by Tom Paulin, where
you had denied that he could have said the words I quoted from a speaker in
the poem.

<<
were by now an established notion, especially among the English writers
with a due awareness of the Irish, Welsh, Scottish  quest for cultural,
linguistic and political autonomy.
>>

I think I may know just a +little+ more than you, and at first-hand, of the
search of the Scots for a linguistic autonomy.  And on a more practical
level, having been involved in attempts to circumvent a +literal+ censorship
of Tom Leonard's "Six Glasgow Poems" and Jim Kelman's "Nice Tae Be Nice",
I'm tempted to twist Brecht -- printers now, Gramsci later.

<<
An European intellectual would not  expect to still find this kind of
recrimination about language purity and integrity. All these questions are
a worry.
>>

Indeed.  That lovely abstract phrase, "language purity and integrity".  This
was partly why I drew attention to the occurence of "wee" in Tom's poem.
There's an interesting linguistic overlap between Belfast and Glasgow.  But
I suppose that's yet another pre-theoretic observation that I should be
ashamed of myself for noticing.  It's you, I think, who seem determined to
talk in linguistically absolutist terms.  As in ...

<<
Pirity in linguistics is a non existent notion. It is a totally misguiding
principle: languages evolve on the base of contamination and impurity: say
exchange.
>>

Actually (and it's at this point that simultaneously my eyes take on a
reddened glaze, my teeth chatter, and my jaw drops), the concepts of
linguistic "contamination" and "impurity" are themselves semantically loaded
expressions of a pure imperial centre to 'language', which never existed
(fully) and certainly doesn't now.

I thought such expressions, and such a blinkeredly-centrist linguistic
stance, had been finally defeated in the sixties.  But perhaps all those old
wars need to be fought again.  Or they do these things differently on the
Continent.

<<
But enough with this: I am not here in the role of a civic pedagogue.
>>

Hm ...

I'd still like to hear what Randolph has to say on this.

Robin

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