Excellent readings tonight from Cydney Chadwick and John Muckle. Reasonable
audience but less than expected - hadnt expected so many would exercise
their consumer choice and not come to see Cydney who has never read here
Below, the editorial from SVP #9 wch contains an unpublished story by each
L1.50 payable to me for a copy in UK
Ted Slade, who has been collecting poetry information on the web as The
Poetry Kit, says he recently heard from PA Listings: "Your listings will be
used. They have already been set up". Therefore, he announced widely: "As
from this coming Saturday "The Guide", distributed with "The Guardian", will
include listings of poetry events, supplied by "The Poetry Kit".
Sub Voicive Poetry congratulated itself on having played a part in this
development because it is SVP's practice to send faxes to all the newspapers
for each of its events, asking them to publicise the readings. But it seemed
clear that Ted had won the day by the greater or possibly the more
diplomatic effort. This time round, SVP saved its pennies, believing that
one listing in a National would be all the recruiting it needed. However
right or wrong that judgement may have been will never be known because no
poetry was listed in "The Guide".
Perhaps PA Listings were not intentionally telling an untruth; but this
magazine, small as it is, accuses them of bad faith. They said they would do
something and then they didn't. They let down people who have too few
resources to afford to be let down.
PA Listings also let down our readers of the 21st, one of whom has come from
USA to read for us in London, as they have let down every reader who has
read at SVP.
It is arbitrary and arrogant and, while there is no conspiracy, the effect
is of a conspiracy. Most of the listers behave the same and they behave
consistently: most literature is treated as something to be trivialised at
best and usually to be ignored. Prizes and other circuses attract attention;
and Barry MacSweeney has recently enjoyed a little fame, not for his poetry,
but for the subject of his poetry. The daily activity of making and making
available poetry, except for the output of media names, is ignored. With
some artistic genres, anything and everything is listed; but, when it comes
to poetry, unless there is a brightly-coloured peg to hang a story on,
those who have the power to decide what information is disseminated, choose
not to let the public know.
On the evening of 20th April, announcing on Radio 4 the death of Octavio
Paz, Mark Lawson said "If relatively few people in this country have heard
of Paz, is that his fault or ours". Is that self-reflective and idiotic
question the best that can be done to honour a poet after a lifetime of
work? Would not the proper question be: "If relatively few people in this
country have heard of Paz, how is that people like me get to keep their
jobs?" Lawson did use the word "ignorant" of himself; but in that light
sense which invites the hearer to say "No, no, don't blame yourself". Well,
I blame him. And I blame his producer for leaving him, having admitted he
knows nothing of the poet, to set the agenda for the too brief discussion he
had with Michael Schmidt.
Schmidt, speaking as Paz's publisher, noted that Paz had filled a hall on
the South Bank two years ago. How on Earth could someone who makes their
living as a critic / commentator not have heard of Paz? but he said he
hadn't. How could he have missed the fact of such an event?
And nothing was said by either of them about Paz's work. They talked about
his politics; Lawson wondered if the Nobel prize had made him happy. The
nearest we got was the comment that Paz is more highbrow than Heaney. Ye
Gods and little minds.
Ending the discussion, Lawson asked which book of Paz's would Schmidt
recommend. Schmidt replied (unfortunately without any facetiousness)
Collected Poems. A pity they didn't talk about the poetry. No one who had
been kept ignorant by pap of the nation's favourite poems and the umpteenth
broadcast of "A highwayman came riding" now knows anything more about Paz's
work even if they had listened to Lawson's pathetic obit.