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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  2005

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 2005

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Subject:

Re: ethnic writers

From:

mairead byrne <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

mairead byrne <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 23 Aug 2005 18:36:17 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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Dear Peter,

I don't regard humour and irony as suspect; I said that one can't
assume, in an international context, that they will be shared.

I don't regard British & Irish poetry as being bound geographically. 
You may do so.
I'm an Irish citizen writing poetry in English in the United States. 
That seems as valid a position as any.

I'm going to champion both list-owners, especially Rupert!  I like the
allotment idea.

I've put a bit of time into reading more about Arts Council England,
West Midlands Arts, and Five Seasons Press.  Arts Council England
identified 4 priorities in its 3-year spending plan announced last
spring; http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/pressnews/press_detail.php?browse=recent&id=415

-- to provide financial stability for the majority of arts organisations

--to ensure that organisations with major capital developments have
the revenue funding to reach their potential

--to develop the infrastructure for Black and minority ethnic artists

--to review the range of organisations receiving regular funding and
redirect funding to priority areas

It's not hard to see how at least two of these priorities could impact
seriously on Five Seasons Press, whose site I enjoyed very much,
http://www.fiveseasonspress.com/InPrintList.htm, especially "On
Printing Poetry Aloud."  If Arts Council England declared books by
women one of its four priorities (unlikely though that may be), Five
Seasons Press would be in difficulty too, as it doesn't have even one
book by a woman in print, and has published or co-published only two
books by women, and two co-authored by a man and a woman, in 28 years.

I don't know the scene, as is amply obvious.  The composition of the
councils of Arts Council England and West Midlands Regional Arts don't
seem strikingly diverse, though there seems to be some effort at
representation.  The staff of WMA don't seem strikingly diverse
either.  Arts Council funding policy seems to go against the grain,
perhaps because the bulk of it is derived from public lottery.
Rupert's allotment metaphor could be revised as allottery.

I wish Glenn Storhaug would join the discussion.

I don't know what to say about racism in England.  I grew up assuming
England was racist in relation to Ireland.  I had an edgy time in
London in the late 1970s and early 1980s, working as a contract
cleaner and later as a security guard (checking for bombs) at a
courthouse, believe it or not.

Peter seems to be saying that British & Irish poetry is somehow land-bound.
I think it's great we have a name that's bound in nationality, even
ethnicity, as it gives opportunity to question these tricky terms.  I
happen to be drinking tea as I'm writing this in Providence, if that's
relevant.  I think the more pertinent thing is identifying with,
contributing to, or shifting a tradition.  Although tea-drinking is
also essential.  I hope this list is hospitable enough to accommodate
that, and to welcome the voices of anyone who wishes to contribute,
regardless of nationality or location.  Especially if they drink
(Barry's) tea.

Finally, I can't see arts administrators as the enemy; usually they're
in the jobs because of some interest in the arts. At least, they are
interested members of the audience, and valuable in that capacity
alone.

Now  I'll keep quiet for a while and see what others have to say on
these subjects.

Mairead


On 8/23/05, Peter Philpott <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Oh dear, I'm about to diss both list-owners. Perhaps they'll be able to
> work out which bits are ironic.
> 
> "Wow! Change! Poets, eat your hearts out!"
> 
> Ohhh, seriously, is this a debate about Poetry or about Social Goodness?
> Is the value of poetry a Social Value - that its value is that it can
> enable the dispossessed to be empowered? I mean that is a pretty good
> Good - but is it, should it, be what BritPo regards as the Ultimate
> Good? Is the value of our activity within the social institutions of
> British and Irish poetry to be determined by the class basis and
> ethnicities etc of our audiences?
> 
> I wish Rupert a long and successful career in the Arts Council.
> 
> "My intention was to say: hey, you're speaking about race in a way I am
> not used to, I'm reading it, in my context here, as disrespectful.  It's
> not that I'm right and you're wrong or vice versa but that our contexts
> and how we speak about race are different.  What I'm saying is: our own
> membership here is diverse and maybe we have as much to gain by
> respecting that and not presuming that cultural values, even humor, is
> shared.  I know this probably is an argument for political correctness.
> I think in international gatherings, as we have here, political
> correctness is probably a useful tool, at least to establish ground."
> 
> I find something disrespectful to the very nature of British and Irish
> poetry if humour and irony are to regarded as suspect. I am deadly
> serious when I say that I cannot trust a discourse concerned with
> British and Irish poetry that refuses such creative potential to
> language. Yeah, sure BritPo is a multicultural community - that is
> excellent, I like that greatly, and it strengthens the moments of
> dialogue that occur.
> 
> Bu it is not a community centred on some idealised and bien-pensant
> deracinated World Poetry. It is centred on the poetry written/being
> written in the Great Brown Tea Drinking Archipelago, a messy and
> inadequate place by the standards of those living outside it, and full
> of funny little groups that, as Rupert's allotments indicate, can sort
> of rub along together. We like using humour and irony to enable this,
> indeed we here mostly cannot think of an alternative - certainly not
> High Mindedness.
> 
> My feeling is that members of this list are genuinely bothered by irony
> and humour they need a much greater and deeper involvement in British
> and Irish poetry until they manage to get the jokes. Or they do some
> other, more boring,  poetry.
> 
> In the meantime:
> 
> (1) what successes have list members had in matching Arts Council
> funding requirements? I'm planning to make some application later this
> year, and am very interested in the extent to which Glenn Storhaug (a
> wonderful publisher and printer!)'s experience is typical. The
> increasing climate of managerialism, target-setting and empty
> image-building gesture (cf Coleridge Cottage) prepares me for the worst.
> 
> (2) now to prepare for tomorrow's Union Branch AGM. There are still
> forms of more genuine collective social/political action possible.
> Poetry can be a part of this; it can be something different; it cannot
> be forced to follow a political or social agenda. Read Adorno everyone.
> best wishes
> 
> Peter Philpott
>

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