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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  September 2010

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS September 2010

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Subject:

Re: "The Conspiracy Against Poems" by Adam Fieled at The Argotist Online

From:

Tim Allen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British & Irish poets <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 6 Sep 2010 13:56:09 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (173 lines)

Hi Jamie,

To be honest, I've written so much and talked so much and thought so  
bloody much about this subject over the years that the prospect of  
doing so again is not inviting. But you are genuinely interested  
aren't you? And not just interested, but concerned. Do you realise how  
refreshing that is, to find someone from your regions of poetry  
actually willing to talk about these things?

You know I've made enemies over all this stuff, and lost friends too,  
by speaking my mind. Sometimes I've gone over the top as well, due to  
anger or polemical impishness, especially when I was editing Terrible  
Work (I certainly recognise this in Tony's article) but I also think  
that for most of the time my statements and enquires regarding this  
subject have been painfully honest. I can stir when I want (on this  
list for example) but what I find is that once a discussion gets going  
my need to seriously understand takes over. (Not always - twitish  
comments and arrogant prejudice can send me back into combative mode.)

I try to be objective, to analyze the thing as if from the outside,  
when that is what is required. What I mean by that is something along  
the lines of, sometimes the subject is hot and sometimes it is cold -  
the 'social realist lite' thing would be an example of hot - a  
critical quip made in the form of shorthand, as an angle on a debate  
related at some point to perceived quality, whereas cold would be a  
more value free discussion on what 'social realist lite' actually  
means, and whether Duffy actually writes it or not. On lists like this  
we have to negotiate our way between such hot and cold, and it's not  
easy.

For the moment I'll restrict myself to answering a couple of your  
points below. You say,
"And I can't help thinking this notion of "systems of power" betrays a
> distorted perception of what is actually out there. It sounds a bit  
> like
> you're speaking of some corporation or multinational firm with immense
> outreach and leverage...."

No Jamie, I'm not , and I suspect you do know what I mean, actually.   
I am referring to the UK's poetic hegemony.

You also say:
" A peculiar animus seems to surface among practitioners
>
> when one of their number (Kay or Oswald, for example, or even Bok)  
> manage to
> break out from that restricted circle. Wouldn't it make more sense  
> to be
> pleased or at least interested when this occurs, even if the author  
> isn't to
> your (or my) taste?"

Ummm, do you mean that we get jealous? Am I jealous of Kay or Oswald?  
No - because I don't do what they do. Am I jealous of Bok though? -  
perhaps, to a degree, because he is being recognised for doing  
something similar to what I have done and got no recognition for. We  
are human beings - this kind of thing is going to happen. However, I  
think I have been honest in what I've said about Bok's reception on  
this list, but you would have to take my word for that. But I suppose  
you are hinting at a larger point here aren't you, that for many of us  
our problem with the mainstream is largely determined by some level of  
jealousy - something we have been accused of time and time again by  
certain individuals, as though that was it, as though that brought the  
curtains down on the thing etc, the whole thing relegated to the  
realms of personal tetchiness. If only........

Cheers

Tim A.

On 6 Sep 2010, at 03:55, Jamie McKendrick wrote:

> Tim, Thanks for this forthright response. I'd just returned from two  
> weeks
> far from any computer connection, so I'm afraid I only picked up  
> rather
> hurriedly and belatedly on this topic.
>
> I had noticed your proviso "you may agree with Tony or you may not"  
> but my
> point remains that a review of an exhibition who's writer hasn't  
> bothered to
> visit it is likely to have dubious claims to being a "brilliant
> contextualization" of a cultural divide. Trehy is merely indignant  
> that
> Duffy has been allowed to curate an exhibition in the Liverpool Tate  
> - I
> assume that as a curator himself of various exhibitions he would  
> expect any
> critique of his work to be based on some actual encounter with it,  
> rather
> than the reviewer's aggrieved sense of superiority to the curator.
>
>  Likewise with Kay and Oswald. You say you have "no idea about what  
> he has
> read and what he hasn't". His evidence against Kay is down to Sue  
> Trehy who
> throws some book of hers aside: '"Ordinary beyond belief, she can't  
> write"
> she declared, "I've read better writing by 6th Form teenagers."'
>
> . He makes it evident he has not read the book by Oswald, or just a  
> snippet
> online. But it doesn't really matter whether he has or hasn't read  
> either
> poet: he is quite content to dismiss their work utterly without  
> deigning to
> offer any serious argument about it. "Duffy-lite" Oswald certainly  
> isn't, as
> anyone who has read her ambitious long poem 'Dart' will immediately  
> see. And
> I'd warmly recommend Kay's 'Adoption Papers' or her 'Selected Poems'  
> to
> anyone unconvinced by the reported remark. There may well be a good  
> case to
> be made against the culture of poetry prizes - but it needs to be  
> made by
> someone who doesn't merely air uninformed prejudices.
>
>  What you call "the interactions between systems of power as they  
> relate
> to the varied  practices of poetry, particularly where such  
> practices are
> partly determined by different conceptual notions of what poetry is  
> capable
> of doing, or should be doing, etc." is certainly worth examining,  
> but surely
> it requires some basic attention to the phenomena, rather than  
> generic abuse
> or little put-downs, of which I consider both Trehy's posts as  
> examples.
>
>  And I can't help thinking this notion of "systems of power" betrays a
> distorted perception of what is actually out there. It sounds a bit  
> like
> you're speaking of some corporation or multinational firm with immense
> outreach and leverage, when very few living poets (of whatever  
> practice or
> persuasion) are noticed beyond a small circle of habitual poetry  
> readers.
> Hard to put a number on this, but I'd be surprised if it came to  
> many more
> than 10,000-15,000. A peculiar animus seems to surface among  
> practitioners
> when one of their number (Kay or Oswald, for example, or even Bok)  
> manage to
> break out from that restricted circle. Wouldn't it make more sense  
> to be
> pleased or at least interested when this occurs, even if the author  
> isn't to
> your (or my) taste?
>
> I've no doubt there are many injustices as regards repute and  
> reception,
> but just taking the question of "power" further in relation to the  
> divide
> between 'mainstream' and 'non-mainstream' poets - I can't see a great
> difference in terms of academic or institutional placements. Trehy,  
> just as
> an example, seems to have a flourishing career as curator and arts
> organizer. I don't think you'd have to look far to find a number of
> 'mainstream' poets without anything like that kind of cudos. So  
> where does
> this sense of grievance come from, this belief that only those like  
> himself
> have any artistic integrity? Forget Trehy, I only mention him  
> because the
> tone of his complaints is so common, and can be heard often enough  
> on this
> list.
>
> Best wishes,
> Jamie

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