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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

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Subject:

Re: Political poetry

From:

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Date:

Thu, 23 Jul 1998 16:11:06 GMT

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Doug wrote
>There just aren't any rules about what
> kinds of poetry can be written in any one age -- all that business about our
> powerlessness and the retreat of politics into realms far beyond our ability
> to affect it makes no difference at all to the central argument, which is one
> of ethics not results.
and
>we keep getting snagged on a pretended distinction between 
>"poltiical poetry" (= rants) versus "poetry", whose political effect 
>is oblique.
  and
> AGAIN, that doesn't mean that we have to seek actual political results from a
> poem, though if on some occasion we think we should then, dammit,
>we should do so.   

It seems to me that the basic assumptions behind the idea (in the 
first quote) attacked by Doug are the founding (metaphysical) 
assumptions of the affirmed second and third quotes.  The supposed 
modernist trap as formulated by Peter comes 
to its terms by negotiation with the invention of the foreclosed 
possibility of an effective and public voice.  Doug`s own position 
maintains a difference between a poetry that (to my mind) dreams 
an effect of effectiveness by being relatively "accessible", and a 
poetry which forecloses its own effective and public possibility, by 
being "difficult".   This correlates with the classic metaphysical 
gesture as diagnosed by you-know-who...maintenance of a distinction 
between agora-appropriate-and-effective `speech` and its secondary, 
derivative representation, writing.  Such a maintenance cannot but 
manoeuvre Poetry into Peter`s boxed-in parking-space, if we accept 
that Poetry distils and concentrates those effects of language 
which are filtered off in the service of a relatively stable and 
transparent model of communication. 

What has to happen during the 
movement from the "difficult" pole to the "accessible" pole (both 
greasy) may well rule out in advance the effectiveness of the 
sought-after effectiveness, by ruling out any coincident 
interrogation of the concepts the poetry seeks to deploy. (For 
me, the best parts of Prynne`s work, from Not-You on, combine 
references to and with some sort of politico-economic analysis and 
commitment, with a questioning of the politics which waits upon 
referentiality, and the limits to the quality of its own analysis and 
commitment.)

This, I think, chimes with certain parts of Keston`s work.  Where I 
would depart from Keston`s account is...that Keston`s `Prynne`
 is more resolutely metaphysical than the collection of texts called 
by that name.  I don`t have the text in front of me, of course, but 
the entire Husserlian section, which refers to Poetry`s "accidental 
reference to the form of time" (apologies if this is wrong, K., I`m 
working from memory and radically unsure if I`ve even understood the 
passage, but for the sake of argument...) assumes that there is some 
thing that refers, and some thing that it refers to (which is 
susceptible to the "form/content" opposition).  Entirely 
metaphysical, the argument ensures that Poetry enjoys the ability to 
be what it is, even as the argument seeks to explain some sort of 
fecund and/but latent futurity which belongs to or constitutes the 
object of the discourse.  This has the pleasing consequence of 
permitting an original and originary `site` to be delimited, called 
`Prynne`, which, even as it is cast and casts itself into the 
unknowable, enables `Prynne` to take the credit for each and every 
twist and turn the texts are (not) bound to take, the credit for what 
`he` cannot possibly predict.  Akin, in other words, to the touching 
faith in, and tributes to, `Prynne` exhibited by John Wilkinson 
elsewhere, and elsewhere discussed by me.

Keston`s earliest posting of his definition of the movement of 
Poetry, before it was collected in the entire (and brilliant, despite 
what I`m saying) essay, prompted a response that suspected the 
definition was tailor-made to guarantee a boundless credit to the 
texts of Prynne, to their integrity.  My own position is, I don`t 
come to praise, don`t come to bury.  Re: Derrida on Husserl, if the 
texts` effect of presence is derived from an originary trace which 
means that they are never exactly identical with "themselves", and if 
Prynne, as some sort of tutelary God, is not there to ABSOLUTELY 
predetermine our readings, I would wish to suppress the urge to 
praise, to blame, (as barely relevant) in favour of a more 
problematic, more slippery, but more politicised attempt to establish 
the extent of authorial responsibility for the readings I can most 
plausibly pursue, without genuflecting whenever I detect The (Effect 
of) Presence, and without immediately dropping what I`m doing when I 
don`t detect &c.

robin





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