Yes I thought David and I might be at cross-purposes. I assumed from his
notes that his posting was a negative one, but he seems to think my response
was positive or, by calling it "generous", not sufficiently negative.
Perhaps I needed to chuck in a few "Yuks" and "gags" to be understood.
I'm grateful to him for singling out the extract because it is
indicative of (at least what I've read of) the whole document. Its manner is
oddly evasive, and jumps from one point to another rather nervously. I'm
tediously repeating what I said in my first post but maybe it will help to
set out things numerically. I've obviously got too much time on my hands.
1) “Yet the success of book publication is not to be measured solely by the
statistic of copies sold.
(We wait to hear what measure should be applied, but instead are told:)
2a) The relationship between poet and editor should ensure that the quality
of the work produced is significantly better than it might have been had the
work not been edited,
(Well, that depends on the competence and diligence of the editor)
2b) that it is accurately and attractively produced,
2c) that it appears with the imprimatur of a publishing house which is a
species of ‘guarantor’, providing a ‘license’authorising the poet.
(The inverted commas seem to suggest that these terms are current ones or
are they intended to question a current assumption?)
3)The fact of edited publication remains crucial in the poetry sector, to
the extent that even performance poets....aspire to this kind of validation.
(As we've agreed, this is not necessarily true, and if true not necessarily
4) Poets active in the tertiary educational sector are required, to be
considered ‘research active’, to have publications, etc....
(I've already questioned this and the next paragraph:)
5) Other forms of validation include awards and prizes....
Excuse this plodding explication de texte. I don't envy anyone having to
write such a report so I'm not trying to ridicule it. I take its shifty
manner, in part, to be the result of trying to avoid being snagged by any
discussion of inherent value in a zone where any assertion of value could be
fiercely contested. So instead it settles for the book (particularly the
"edited" book) as a primary "validation", and after that looks to various
kinds of public and educational recognition of the work. The Arts Council
has to make difficult decisions about what to fund and what not to
(decisions which in this case have already been criticised here) and so, as
you note, having "boxes" to tick might look like its own form of validation.
What you say about quantifying all things, "in the way that real
education, as in real poetry, cannot", is the nub of the issue. I share your
suspicion about the changes effected by writing MAs and so on, and your
parallell with Blairite education policies is most likely right - though it
happened for the universities under Thatcher.
What I'm still mulling over is whether this report is an authoratitive
account of anything. I'm also deeply unconvinced that it reveals anything
about the "ever-present validation process that seems to be in place with
major poetry publishers" as David claims, and I'd still like to know why
thinks this. Another subsidiary question is whether the criteria for
publication are essentially different for "major publishers" than they are
for smaller ones.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tim Allen" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 4:01 PM
Subject: Re: Arts Council report on Contemporary Poetry
Firstly, I think you and David were at cross-purposes - I couldn't
work out if David was forwarding the piece negatively or positively -
negatively, I think, going by what he's said.
Anyway, your comment about poetry being 'more robust than this' is
interesting. I agree, it probably is - but in the long term (I hope) -
in the short term I think it is damaged - but this 'short term' can be
long enough to damage poets in their life time, if you see what I
mean. The drift towards these new forms of validation with regard to
creative writing MA's etc has been gradual but is now beginning to
bite. I was at a poetry 'do' last year where every poet was presented
in the programme as being some super academic achiever with long lists
of letters and accredited courses after their names - and it wasn't an
especially avant line-up either. This is a different animal to the
more traditional university English dept. coterie with its enclosed
circle of pals publishing pals but the effect of these two things in
tandem is really starting to colour the way poets are presented as
being deserving of a readership or not.
And yes, 'any indicator of value', as you point out, is absent from
the extract. It's like the rest of the educational world as it
developed through the Blair years - what counts is not the thing
itself - it's value lies in how many boxes it has filled, whether it
has completed the correct courses then gone through the expected
processes - all things that be quantified in the way that real
education, as in real poetry, cannot. So yes, I am not surprised by
the tone of this piece and the language it uses, it's typical.
On 27 May 2011, at 13:55, Jamie McKendrick wrote:
> Your comment -
> "once the validation of poetry depends not on the poetry itself but on
> the institutional position of the poet then poetry is fucked, whatever
> sort of poetry it is"
> - isn't far from my own feelings; except that I think poetry is far more
> robust than this.
> Any indicator of value - except in the dubious point about editorial
> input - is entirely absent from the extract. The same goes for the
> sentence about readings that ninerrors quotes.
> What I wonder is why, if I've understood him right, David Lace thought
> this a trustworthy account of how things are. Do you think it is?
> That this is the language which the Arts Council and its compilers have
> chosen to discuss the topic is certainly significant. And maybe not that
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Tim Allen" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 11:36 AM
> Subject: Re: Arts Council report on Contemporary Poetry
> As I'm here, a few comments on what David sent us...
> >"The fact of edited publication remains crucial in the poetry
> sector, to the extent that even performance poets, while acknowledging
> the aurality of their work, aspire to this kind of validation.<"
> I don't think this is altogether true - there are any number of
> performance poets who, to my knowledge, don't give a monkeys about
> appearing in print - and long may it stay that way.
> And the same applies to a number of poets who appear to be solely on-
> line based.
> >" Poets active in the tertiary educational sector are required, to
> be considered ‘research active’, to have publications"<
> Now this is probably true, and just how awful is it? I've said it
> before and I'll say it again - once the validation of poetry depends
> not on the poetry itself but on the institutional position of the poet
> then poetry is fucked, whatever sort of poetry it is.
> >"Other forms of validation include awards and prizes (of which there
> are hundreds, perhaps a dozen of which have a national profile), and
> appointments in the academic or civic sector"<
> Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!
> Poetry is not a profession - it's an artform. Of course it has to deal
> with institutions and professions to get itself known and published
> and talked about - but it should itself remain as independent as
> possible from those things and not let its context be dictated by them.
> Tim A.
> On 26 May 2011, at 14:55, David Lace wrote:
>> Informative extract:
>> “Yet the success of book publication is not to be measured solely by
>> the statistic of copies sold. The relationship between poet and editor
>> should ensure that the quality of the work produced is significantly
>> better than it might have been had the work not been edited, that it is
>> accurately and attractively produced, and that it appears with the
>> imprimatur of a publishing house which is a species of ‘guarantor’,
>> providing a ‘license’ authorising the poet. The fact of edited
>> publication remains crucial in the poetry sector, to the extent that
>> even performance poets, while acknowledging the aurality of their work,
>> aspire to this kind of validation. Poets active in the tertiary
>> educational sector are required, to be considered ‘research active’, to
>> have publications, though hitherto the educational sector has not been
>> as consistent in discriminating the quality and level of achievement in
>> terms of poetry book publication as they are in terms of academic
>> Other forms of validation include awards and prizes (of which there are
>> hundreds, perhaps a dozen of which have a national profile), and
>> appointments in the academic or civic sector which entail a transparent
>> selection process. Once established in these ways, poets will find they
>> are more welcome on the reading circuit, receive fees and increase the
>> sale of their publications many-fold at events. They are also in a
>> stronger position to apply for academic and teaching posts and other
>> jobs in the sector.”
>> Pages 9-10
>> ------Original Message------
>> From: Alec Newman
>> Sender: British & Irish poets
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> ReplyTo: British & Irish poets
>> Subject: Arts Council report on Contemporary Poetry
>> Sent: 24 May 2011 09:42
>> Anyone who's not seen this might find it interesting. Comments on a
>> postcard please.
>> Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media