In a way it doesn't worry me because it was ever thus. Yet there are
differences. The current _popularity_ of poetry is modish without what I
regard as substance. Poets in solicitors and football clubs and so on is
fine; but it does tend to reinforce the got up, shat, ate, worked school...
and, because the whole thing, the supermarketishness, relies on feeding and
_educating_ an identified market, it must match the general perception of
what the product niche is.
As with food. Processed food, new lines, is always marketed in terms of
stuff that exists - so by buying convenience - note the word - foods you are
supposedly by buying quicker and or better identifiable meals than you could
otherwise produce yourself. Identifiability / consumer recognition is the
Products of low consumer recognition, _ethnic foods_ etc need to become
trendy, get a tv boost or something
And I think that is happening with poetry...
So you get the poets in residence churning out the britpo lyric in versions
of the beast as sketched by robert sheppard a while ago
So you get people willing to consume this stuff... they need - the theory
goes - serving suggestions... In poetry terms this is telling people what
the poetry is about. How did you come to write this poem? Is it
autobiographical?... Or you ask who has influenced them, or you rank poems -
the nation's favourite poems... Whatever you do don't talk about poetry
because it is not on the basis of poetry that poetry is being consumed.
When BM was being interviewed on Kaleidoscope on Radio 4, they asked him -
as I recall, I didn't tape it - if writing the poetry had helped him get
over his alcoholism, survive it, and he said no, therapy did that and poetry
is something else. Right, they said, and went on talking about poetry as
BM may have brought some of this on himself. The Chatterton thing. Look at
me I am self-destructive. Chatterton etc is a little remote; but alcoholism,
that's a unique selling point and it will earn its a product a market
Now it may be that BM will manage, wittingly or unwittingly, not to play the
game.As I said above, he doesn't deliver the point of sale chatter they
want. Ken Smith is another who manages, probably, to get away with it,
because he sticks to the point, the point being the poetry. *He is an
interesting comparison with Armitage having worked in prisons etc; what he
does with it is to the point; it informs him rather than being decorative
posters for a product.
This is why, I think, that we hear more of Armitage than Smith.
As to how much is taken in rather than consumed, I don't know. I think that
a lot of poetry consumed just goes straight through - as long as it seems to
produce the expected sensation, dum de dum de dum de da in whatever form, it
And that is why there is so little marketing of poetry as poetry - like the
advert for shredded wheat - I've read two poems, but I don't think I could
read *three poems
I don't know how much engagement there will be with BM's poetry - it doesn't
have to communicate too much, DTs you know...
From: Keston Sutherland <[log in to unmask]>
To: Lawrence Upton. <[log in to unmask]>
Cc: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: 14 January 1998 15:49
Subject: Re: rant to rant 1
|sorry Lawrence, I've been ex circuit - could you forward me your own
|obseravtions on this supermarketishness?