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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  May 2011

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS May 2011

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Subject:

Re: Arts Council report on Contemporary Poetry

From:

Jamie McKendrick <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 27 May 2011 20:41:29 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (223 lines)

Tim, hi.
  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,
(ditto) and
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 
significant.)
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.
Best,
Jamie








----- 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


Hi Jamie,

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.

Cheers

tim A.
On 27 May 2011, at 13:55, Jamie McKendrick wrote:

> Tim,
>  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 
> surprising.
>
> Best,
> Jamie
>
> ----- 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 
>> publications.
>>
>> 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.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> http://www.literaturedevelopment.co.uk/domains/nationalassociationforliteraturedevelopment.org.uk/local/media/audio/Poetry_mapping_DEFINITIVE.pdf
>>
>>
>> Alec
>>
>>
>> Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media 

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