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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  August 2015

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS August 2015

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Subject:

Re: a good horsewhipping (was "delusions of whiteness", etc.)

From:

Jeremy F Green <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:07:43 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (190 lines)

Tim,

I hope you realize that the chunk of material I quoted was from an
interview with Michael Donaghy.  I should perhaps have made it clear why I
quoted the passage: it struck me as wildly tendentious and inaccurate in
its description of "other poetries", even those that might still wish to
use the term avant-garde. Not necessarily a symmetrical pair for Keston's
satiric ploy, but something along those lines: the "non-mainstream"
doesn't have a monopoly on caricature.

All these scare quotes.  Ugh.

I don't share Donaghy's views.

As far as the term 'progressive' goes, I took him to be using it in a
fairly standard political sense--progressive as opposed to reactionary.
It's surely exceptionally difficult to claim--after modernism, after 'make
it new,'--that artistic innovation is tied to social progress.  Even from
the perspective of the historical avant-garde (Dada, Surrealism), it's
very far from straightforward: the target of at least some of that work is
surely the bourgeois notion of progress--science, technology and
capitalism moving society towards ever greater enlightenment and freedom
(well, no, apparently it led straight to a century of war).

I suppose I see what you mean by your mention of BBC radio as in some
sense informed by (Reithian?) ideas of progress and education.  Believe
me, from a US perspective that all sounds highly admirable and attractive,
even if I can't help finding much of Radio 3 and 4 lambent with the warm
tones of paternalism.

I haven't looked at that Foil anthology in ages.  I'll see if I can dig it
out.  I don't recall the intro.  The rhetoric of "risk-taking" also, for
the record, gets an outing in the Don Paterson edited "New British Poetry"
anthology.  It all gets to feel like the language of marketing, whoever
uses it.  

Best,
Jeremy 

On 8/28/15 12:16 PM, "British & Irish poets on behalf of Tim Allen"
<[log in to unmask] on behalf of
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Hi Jeremy,
>
>OK, where I agree with you is in the more elevated ideas of 'progress'
>etc that the avant-garde (and by this I mean those who did actually see
>themselves as being avant-garde and not just called it for lack of
>another name) often saddled themselves with. But the trouble is that this
>is mostly a historical thing - artists from the avant-garde art world,
>particularly in America from the 50's on, did equate what they were doing
>with progress - it was part of the zeitgeist. It might not have been
>particularly political but it was certainly cultural. It's as difficult
>to knock that as it is difficult to knock any other aspiration. The
>earlier European avant-gardes had of course been a lot more political,
>often seeing no real difference between artistic and political action,
>but yes, they saw it as being progress, and why not?. Even in the rather
>neutral and liberal minded field of English literature there is a notion
>that artistic activity is a promoter of human progress in general and
>personal progress for both producer and consumer. That idea has a long
>history, going back to Ruskin on to Leavis and on down to the common
>philosophy of something like Radios 3 and 4. It's been dented by
>post-modernism but not as much as anyone would notice.
>
>That's why it is not really an issue for me - personally speaking I don't
>know if any art is progress or not, including my own - it's just what
>happens. What does make it an issue - and this is where I agree with you
>and have clashed with certain folk on this list - is when one faction
>looks upon its own stuff as progress and the other faction's as retro, or
>whatever. This is why I strongly object to the idea, for example, that
>poetry made with electronic help is of more value than poetry written by
>a bloke with the back of an envelope and a pencil. I'm really interested
>in experiments and explorations and crossover stuff and love them for
>their freshness and excitement but I would never say that they are better
>than something else just because they are what they are - they might be
>rubbish.
>
>So I don't really think that the idea of 'progress' is still a 'cherished
>illusion of the avant-garde'. I mentioned postmodernism above, that has
>had a noticeable impact and of course it contains the idea that
>progress/quality are scrambled concepts.
>
>Re conceptualism - I don't have any problem with it until it starts to
>talk big about itself, then I get cross. And of course a lot of it is
>just promotional talk anyway, but that's no different to any other area
>within capitalism, something trying to sell itself. I do remember being
>at a conference listening to (think it was Michael Palmer) talk and all
>kinds of words like 'revolutionary' and 'ground-breaking' and
>'progressive' and 'emancipating' were being used and it all sounded very
>exciting but then I realised that the only thing he was talking about was
>poetry. On a similar topic I once wrote a review of the Foil anthology
>(do you know it - Etruscan) where I praised the work in it but was
>critical of the editor's introduction with all its talk of risk-taking -
>however much I liked the work in in the book the writers weren't taking
>risks, they were writing poems - so yes I know exactly what you mean but
>for me it's not that important, more of an occasional irritant.
>
>Cheers
>
>Tim
>
>PS - spent far too long on all this stuff today - I think I might ask
>myself for a divorce.
>         
>On 27 Aug 2015, at 20:13, Jeremy F Green wrote:
>
>> I'd never heard of the poet Peter mentions, so I found my way to his
>>blog,
>> read a (frankly, rather trite) poem about football, failed to discover
>>any
>> Martians or Martianism, but did come across a passage from a Michael
>> Donaghy interview which suggests that there are all sorts of phantoms
>> floating around the putative divide.  I don't find this any more helpful
>> than frustratingly vague accounts of a supposed 'mainstream':
>> 
>> "But look at those sexy words used all too frequently to describe
>> contemporary art and literature, 'experimental' and 'revolutionary'. The
>> first is a metaphor filched from science - experimental art doesn't
>>have a
>> control group, doesn't collate and publish its findings. And
>> 'revolutionary' properly describes a brick thrown at a police cordon,
>>not
>> a poem in Parataxis. Among the most cherished illusions of the
>>avant-garde
>> is the idea that bourgeois art consoles, pleases and mollifies with
>> received notions of beauty, whereas avant-garde art shocks and
>>challenges
>> and doesn't seek to please. I'm always dismayed by this kind of
>> self-delusion. The audience for avant-garde art is a middle-class
>>audience
>> that pays to be shocked, bored or insulted, much in the same way that
>> Mistress Wanda's clients pay to be horsewhipped. It's an audience that
>> knows what it wants and is comfortable with its rituals and cliches.
>> Whether it's a urinal on a pedestal in 1910 or a poem composed entirely
>>of
>> semi-colons in 1997 ('everything changes but the avant-garde', said
>> Auden), the audience expects to retreat from a direct and complex
>> experience of the craftsmanship, to ideas about art.
>> 
>> 
>> The most common of these ideas can be phrased as 'Justify your
>>instinctive
>> reaction that this is not a work of art.' In other words, the burden of
>> proof is placed with the audience, where in former ages it belonged to
>>the
>> artist. Whatever the quality of your work, if it strikes the critical
>> powers-that-be as 'anti-poetic', it is de facto worth talking about.
>>Fine.
>> I enjoy avant-garde work from Duchamp to Damien Hirst, to poets like
>>Clark
>> Coolidge, but let's not delude ourselves with the naive and sentimental
>> notion that such art is 'progressive'. I'm angry about that pretence.
>> Capitalism long ago defeated the avant-garde by accepting it as another
>> style. Yet artists continue to present themselves as an offence to the
>> establishment even as they accept fat cheques from the Saatchi Gallery
>>or
>> attend academic conferences on 'oppositional' poetries."
>> 
>> From www.benwilkinson.org
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> On 8/27/15 8:00 AM, "British & Irish poets on behalf of Peter Riley"
>> <[log in to unmask] on behalf of [log in to unmask]>
>> wrote:
>> 
>>> Don't get the dreads, Tim, the dog may catch them. I wasn't expecting
>>> you to answer all those questions,, just to consider they may be more
>>> interesting than senses of usurpation (which I've knows myself quite
>>> well in my time and there is, somewhere, some kind of justification,
>>> or used to be). (The king supreme of the brand of resentment involved
>>> is Anthony Barnett). (Listening to a young poet called Ben Wilkinson
>>> recently I had to conclude that Martianism is not dead).
>>> P
>>> 
>>> On 27 Aug 2015, at 14:07, Tim Allen wrote:
>>> 
>>> Good lord Jamie, too much for this lovely day. The bits I feel I can
>>> respond to I will in separate posts if I can (but it might be
>>> tomorrow), but some of below I just don't know enough about to be able
>>> to judge its relevance. Also had a reply from Peter where the prospect
>>> of trying to answer fills me with dread. Hi Peter. So patience. I'd
>>> love it if some folk out there could chip in and help but I think the
>>> list's ten million lurkers are all on holiday.
>>> 
>>> Cheers
>>> 
>>> Tim

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