JiscMail Logo
Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities

Help for BRITISH-IRISH-POETS Archives


BRITISH-IRISH-POETS Archives

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS Archives


BRITISH-IRISH-POETS@JISCMAIL.AC.UK


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS Home

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS Home

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

Options

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password

Subject:

Re: Political poetry

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 19 Jul 1998 03:59:21 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

The clarity of Jon's defence of a Confucian position is very helpful, as all
clarity is.

To clear up one misunderstanding (which I thought I'd already cleared up), I
did not attack Chomsksy's argument that an artist ought to speak the truth
about injustice to an audience who can do something about it.  OK, providing
the truth is being spoken.  And if it is not being spoken, then may the artist
think it is. (Can we ignore for the moment the whole business of what truth
is, please -- this list has run that one through the mincer already?  It may
be more helpful to think of some pretty obvious injustice, such as apartheid,
as otherwise one can chop logic so fine it clogs the throat). 

"I mean turn it around," Jon says, "are we to believe that it is the moral and
political obligation of the artist to speak the truth about injustice to an
audience who can't do anything about it?"  Well turn that around again: if the
audience really is so powerless (and the point is at least questionable), then
yes, the artist still does have the obligation to speak about injustice, etc.

At minimum, it's a question of what an ethical life might be. An alternative
to Confucius would be Kant, whose definition of ethics was behaving as you
think everyone ought to behave, no matter what the response or consequences.
Artists did, for example, play a role in the changes in South Africa,
especially the poetry and drama associated with the trade union movement, as
far as I understand the moves that led to the fall of apartheid.

I didn't bring my list of political poets up to date (and thanks for the
lexicography on Vergil -- no wonder I got confused) because I thought the
point proved.  This was careless.  The trouble is that when we get a poet who
has truly had an effect on politics we fail to recognise him/her.  It would be
parochial of us to assume that because we Brits hadn't heard of Amiri Baraka
(Leroi Jones, as was), the Black community in the US hasn't: or to forget
that, for example, he went head to head with Spike Lee in a famous argument
about Malcolm X.  I'm not sure all of Amiri's attitudes have been helpful, but
his effect has been widespread in his "nation", in which he one of the most
famous members.  Similarly, I have seen for myself that Allen Ginsberg had a
tremendous effect on young people, for good or ill, in the States, Italy,
France, Britain, Germany, Bangla Desh (!), etc. -- but, of course, Allen
wasn't "literary" enough for the language-obsessed Brits: our snobbiest
critics couldn't see that a poet's whole life might be poetic as well as
his/her language.  Anne Waldman, with lesser fame, has played a role in US
life, Diane di Prima, and Kathy Acker, also, provided people with writing-life
style influence (not especially desirable, perhaps, but there). Iain Sinclair
and his cohorts currently has an influence of some sort on the punk-style
following. And, alas, Philip Larkin had an effect on how people perceived
poetry and life in general (a lot of arty journalism in Britain remains
influenced by his attitudes because they match the worldview of many
journalists -- no nonsense, no pretention -- and, I'd argue, helped to affect
the tone adopted by Private Eye, with its anti-feminism and public school
manner of throwing ink blots from the back of the classroom).  Seamus Heaney,
to his credit, formed part of the movement that at once asserted political
principle and peaceful solution in Northern Ireland.

We are often blind to the effect of poetry because we are so obsessed with
poetry's being clever on the page and have an relatively modern concentration
on the innovation possible at the lexical and syntactical level.  As if that
were enough. I am not against that concentration in itself; but I believe
poetry to be very various.  That's why I've kept tub-thumping in recent years
about the necessity for a variety of genres and styles and have attacked any
avant-gardist attempts to restrict them.  My own poetic practice seeks this
variety -- I must say sometimes to my cost, for I'm only too aware when I am
offending against certain critical canons and have received the expected
brickbats occasionally.  It's so much easier to be modish, but when our guns
are so few we need all the ammunition we can get.  As far as performance
poetry, for example, manages the multi-cultural it, too, can prove a force --
and the huge fuss about Karen Finlay and NEA grants in the States shows the
potential there. Adrian Rich, again for all her flaws, has affected many a
woman's life.

I don't want to confuse "art" with "spectacle", but I will not divorce it from
the artist's whole life in society and history.  I just don't think Confucius
is right to recommend withdrawal when circumstances aren't favourable.  The
opposite could be argued: when circumstances aren't favourable, the artist of
courage comes forward.  Although the wise person who withdraws may also,
oddly, have an effect -- rather as a monk is supposed to have, I suppose. As I
say, various . . .

Doug


%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

JiscMail Tools


RSS Feeds and Sharing


Advanced Options


Archives

December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997


JiscMail is a Jisc service.

View our service policies at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/ and Jisc's privacy policy at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/website/privacy-notice

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager