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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

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Subject:

Mainstream/Pound/Ric&Peter

From:

Ira Lightman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ira Lightman <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 19 Jan 1998 19:15:19 BST

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (236 lines)


I may be mis-understanding, but I don't think, Ric, that
Peter was talking about the failure of Enright and Thwaite
and Fuller to see outside their world and relate to Prynne
and Raworth. In fact, that's just the way of thinking
about it that Peter seems to be challenging. There
was a line in Blackadder III, "I'd sooner put my john
thomas in the hands of a lunatic with a pair of
scissors than wed my daughter to an unworthy man",
and it is as if poets were treating their work as
taking that risk and fearing but also partly,
masochistically, wanting to be rejected, by the
educated (like only fancying straight people/real
men/ which goes on a lot in parts of the gay scene)
that was at fault; coming home to the community and
commiserating, to co-opt a Denise Riley line "show
me your wound, ah mine's deeper".... I just think
it's odd that Peter should be seen to have been
saying that, when he didn't seem to me to be.
	As to Donald Davie, I think he got fed
up of being pusher/fence for this world, and he
especially I think felt he could move on when David
Trotter's The Making of the Reader (which Davie
praised in a long LRB review at the time) came out,
doing similar, not much more, inventive bridging to
Davie's in the 70's. Davie had other causes, which
Peter I think sympathises with, of promoting "mainstream-
style" (ie not that disjunctive) poets like Jack
Clemo and Sylvia Townsend Warner, who got ignored
by the mainstream press and by the non-mainstream
academic and poetry community places (I think he
also wanted to shift the focus of mainstream criticism
away from anglo-irish Heaney Mahon Longley to anglo-
scottish, for example; these acts of challenging
mainstream criticism work by particulars, by talking
a little mainstream fashion and then enticing those
easily closing minds with something that will open
them a little, rather than slam off in a huff;
these are not questions of being right, but of being
intimate, which is much more difficult); Davie was
always opening up exceptions to the mainstream, he
just didn't remain in our non-mainstream's 
mainstream. Maybe also wanting attention for his own
poetry, which, to answer Alan Baker's "Are Tomlinson and 
Sisson mainstream?": Davie wasn't, where they were,
because he never lodged, just attached and detached
around. I think Davie drew on Poundianism and queried
its place in the different media around now, and
our non-mainstream's mainstream is a medium of these
media. In keeping too, Davie not only let Trotter's
book do some of his work, but also preserved a 
diplomatic silence in letting Trotter approve work
(in 1982) work of Prynne and Dorn from the early
70s only; Davie thought, or so he said in a letter
to me, that many he had championed had simply
not gone on to the risks of maturity, and had gone
downhill. Peter, are you criticising Prynne's later
density, or excusing it? Davie was an example of
intellectualism that Ben Watson might ken; he was
always polite in his later work, giving things
their meagre due, saying of Larkin "surely some
of his work will survive" (and getting attacked
for that by Larkinites), and I remember being
constructively shocked by that as I think I would
be merely bored by frontal attack from Ben on
people I had yet then to see then feet of clay of.
	Alan Baker said:
	"It seems to me that the poetic techniques 
bequeathed by Pound could be applied to very formal verse, 
as well as to experimental work."
	I think Peter is saying: the techniques of
independence and mesmeric critical writing, wading
in, getting involved, treating the curious young
respectfully, building powerbases, watching for
the moment to get some media space, making distinctions
between "this is my poetry hat, this my publiciser
hat", not feeling one's poetic world of language
besmirched and polluted by talking the talk of the
vulgarians (which Pound found was a genre, that 
could be done brilliantly, making those who work
in it feel bested, but also that their stable
idiom was unstable, just creating those moments
of restlessness that let the mind open a little
behind the day-to-day phobic brain, promoting
the other arts, having a nifty beard and shock
of hair, that had glamour, not just a badge
of non-straight-dom, that impressed with its
suavity despite its non-conformity, these are
all needed still. As to poetry, Sisson, Tomlinson,
I find they each take an aspect of something
passed (like Trotter) and illuminate it, through
a simpler version in their writing; at the end,
I go back to Pound, and find all Sisson's or
Tomlinson's work there in two lines BUT I could
only see that after reading them, as after a good
piece of criticism (which is also backward-looking,
a fragment of the whole, not keeping up with
current work). Current work remains impossible if
the feel for the public that Pound had gets lost.

Ira

On Thu, 15 Jan 1998 20:10:36 +0000 (GMT) R I Caddel wrote:

> On Wed, 14 Jan 1998, Peter Riley wrote:
> 
> > If there's a 'need to ghettoise poetry' in this country, 
well, no one has
> > done more ghettoising than the poets themselves. They 
have ghettoised each
> > other and they have ghettoised themselves, endlessly and 
relentlessly. And
> > the mid-to-late 1970s was when they started doing this 
in earnest. Before
> > that there was some hope, I'd say, of establishing a 
real poetic presence
> > in the public arena, there were people around capable of 
it, and there were
> > inexperienced people who could have been helped into it 
if older figures
> > had acted with wisdom.
> 
> - Hmm... well, I WAS young - and certainly inexperienced - 
at the time... 
> but I just don't remember it that way. I just don't recall 
in the 70s the
> Thwaites and Fullers and Enrights (or their critical or 
publicational
> cohorts) of this world exhibiting any kind of openness 
towards the
> Raworths and Prynnes (to name but five). Nor, indeed, did 
I see any
> prospect of dialogue between them, with the solitary 
exception of Davie
> (who was fast becoming closed). Nor, after the crashes of 
the Fulcrum/Cape
> Goliard set, did I see the least chance of a Raworth (for 
instance) having
> a "real poetic presence in the public arena". It's quite 
possible I missed
> it, being far from the centres of culture - but I'd really 
like to know,
> Peter, wherein the hope of such presence was. What WAS the 
light that
> failed? 
> 
> Poets exist in little groups (or alone) - always have 
done, always will
> do: that's nothing to do with decades. It's regrettable 
that few of them
> are prepared to talk cross-boundaries (let's mention Anne 
Stevenson here
> as one who significantly DOES talk and read across the 
range) - or is it
> not so remarkable? Sometimes (hear the voice of the 
listowner) I'm amazed
> that any of us talk to any of us, so preoccupied are we 
with our perfectly
> justified concerns.  For myself, I like to look up from 
the wordpit from
> time to time and see what the other faceworkers are up to 
- but that
> doesn't make me part of a group, and that's not why I do 
it. But this is
> totally different to the closedness of the central organs 
of publishing in
> this country, which is clear and demonstrable, and has 
been for some time. 
> Look at the way in which "Conductors of Chaos" had to get 
"marketed": 
> Wild! Whacky! DIFFERENT! And directly contrary - and 
rightly so, to my
> mind - to those who Peter describes as:
> 
> " journalist-poets eager for success, and established 
their own kinds of
> comparative easy poetry as the national product, 
henceforth thought of by
> all the rest of the world as what british poetry is doing 
"
> 
> Whilst any definition's going to be imperfect and raggy at 
the edges, it's
> not hard to come up with a working definition of hardcore 
"mainstream",
> along the lines of : "that which is promoted by most 
cultural arbiters as
> the succession of excellence in UK poetry" (please feel 
free to tinker
> with this, I really don't mind). I first heard the term 
from a Newcastle
> publisher (in the 70's actually), who said - not that I'd 
asked him - that
> I wasn't mainstream, and that writing outside the 
mainstream was pure
> wilfulness, and that no non-mainstream poetry could ever 
hope to achieve
> recognition, other than as a momentary aberration... it 
was a formative
> moment for me. 
> 
> Again, Hmm. Nevertheless, there was some great stuff 
written during the
> 70s, and not all of it by signed-up members of any 
particular orthodoxy.
> 
> Onwards!
> 
___________________________________________________________
> Richard Caddel
> Durham University Library, Stockton Rd., Durham DH1 3LY, 
UK
> E-mail: [log in to unmask]   
> Phone: +44 (0)191 374 3044    Fax: +44 (0)191 374 7481    
           
> WWW: http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dul0ric                        
                                              
> 
> "Words! Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write."      
    
>                                 - Basil Bunting           
                 
> 
___________________________________________________________
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 





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