sheenaghpugh: (Vogon poetry appreciation chair)
There's an article by Marjorie Perloff in the current PN Review (vol 38 no 3) which it's taken me a week to get around to reading, purely because the title, "Towards a Conceptual Lyric: From Content to Context" was so off-puttingly reminiscent of the most boring type of academic dissertation. But as often happens, it concealed a riveting and thought-provoking article, on what a lot of people nowadays think poetry is, why they're wrong, and why this misconception leads to such truly awful poetry.

The trigger was a workshop for high school poets, held at the White House under the auspices of Michelle Obama and attended by four practising poets, of whom more anon. The introductory remarks, by Mrs Obama and others, stressed the importance of poetry as a teenage escape from real life – "whenever I didn't want to deal with the nonsense of the neighbourhood I would write and write" – and preparation for more important, real-life, adult activities –"it was my writing that prepared me for what I've had to do in my life as an adult". Despite the presence of published poets, it isn't seen as a career in itself; it isn't even for itself. What it is for is self-expression; Rita Dove tells the group "Only you can tell your own story". Some of the students then get to read their own poems. Not surprisingly, given these criteria, they are truly dire. No doubt they were good therapy, and useful as such, but as poems they are quite unredeemed by any sense of rhythm, structure or even feeling for words (witness the one which uses "exceeded" for "succeeded"). All they do have going for them are originality and authenticity, which are clearly seen as cardinal virtues when trying to write a poem.
more behind cut )
sheenaghpugh: (Vogon poetry appreciation chair)
This is one of those posts about Things All Writers Know that turn out to be less clear-cut than you think. In this case it's inversion, the violence that poems sometimes do to normal word order in the name of rhyme and metre. This was commonplace in the 18th and 19th centuries, fell out of use in the 20th and nowadays will cause an editor to bin you without a second thought. And quite right too, in most cases. But just now and then, something happens to make you think twice. In my case, it was pondering the construction of Latin sentences while listening to a recording of a wartime George Formby ENSA concert. bear with me; all will become clear, or at least clearer than it is at present )
sheenaghpugh: (Trollfjord in Norway)
I've been involved in a Facebook discussion about the naming and evoking of places in poems, and how the naming of places, while it can sometimes invite the reader in, can also sometimes exclude. At one point the poet and translator Peter Daniels, who's kindly given me permission to quote him, remarked 'There are poets that can evoke "my place" as a magic invitation to the reader (e.g. Yeats with Innisfree, Longley with Carrigskeewaun), and others (e.g. Brooke with Grantchester) that are too much of a private party - "you had to be there"'.

The more I think about it, the more I think it hinges on the fact that places, at least as far as people are concerned, exist in time and context. However much we may love a place for its landscape, its light, or anything else intrinsic, it will also, in our minds, be the place where we grew up, or fell in love, or were happy in our work. And while everyone's particular place-references will be different, the roles those places occupy in their history will be similar and can be evoked by a writer referring to a quite different place, provided he/she somehow finds the universal element that links them. As usual, example is easier. William Barnes has a poem called "The Wife a-Lost" (he wrote in Dorset dialect) in which a grieving widower spends all his time in a gloomy grove of beech, a place his wife disliked and never spent time in. The rationale is simple:
Below the beeches' bough, my love,
Where you did never come,
An' I don't look to meet ye there,
As I do look at hwome.
- he feels some easing of his grief in this grove because it's the one place where he does not expect to see her at every turn. Now this particular place-association is specific to the poem's narrator, but almost any reader could empathise with the basic idea, and substitute his own place for the beech-grove.
more behind cut )
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
One of the more fascinating things about writing is how you can, while doing it, assume not only another persona but opinions and feelings you never held, experiences that never befell you, etc. I can write about being widowed, though I never have been; one just steps into the skin of Lady Franklin and uses one's imagination.... I could, though an atheist, write from a religious viewpoint: I'd feel vaguely uncomfortable about it, which is probably why I have only ever done it when translating from others, but it's perfectly possible.

Hilaire Belloc was a religious man, or so he always claimed, a practising Catholic, but you wouldn't gather as much from this poem, one of his "The world's a stage" sonnets. Some of these are frivolous; this is not:

The world’s a stage. The light is in one’s eyes.
The auditorium is extremely dark.
The more dishonest get the larger rise;
The more offensive make the greater mark.
The women on it prosper by their shape,
Some few by their vivacity. The men,
By tailoring in breeches and in cape.
The world’s a stage —I say it once again.
The scenery is very much the best
Of what the wretched drama has to show,
Also the prompter happens to be dumb.
We drink behind the scenes and pass a jest
On all our folly; then, before we go,
Loud cries for “Author”…but he doesn’t come.

Now one could argue that the fact that the "author" - God, in the context of this extended metaphor - doesn't show up doesn't mean he doesn't exist. R S Thomas's God is similarly and discouragingly absent, and undoubtedly believed in. But this isn't usually how Belloc visualises his God. It's also possible that he was in an uncharacteristically gloomy mood at the time. I know very little about him biographically since he's a long way down my favourites list, either as a poet or a person, so I don't know if he was depressive or subject to metaphysical doubts. But I'd then expect that when his mood changed he might have been iffy about publishing this in its current form. I wonder therefore if he's consciously in persona here, trying to see the world through the eyes of someone who genuinely sees it as a pointless and unauthored sham. If that's so, I'd be impressed, because it doesn't usually work that way round; while atheists are fascinated by the thinking of the religious, most religious writers are supremely uninterested in the viewpoint of the other side and unconvincing when they attempt it (vide C S Lewis and his pantomimic villains). Whatever the impetus, this is one of Belloc's more impressive efforts; the extended metaphor is well sustained and the last line is terrific.
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Christopher Meredith is a novelist and poet from Wales. Though he works mainly in English, one of his books for children is in Welsh and he also translates from Welsh into English. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Glamorgan. His most recent collection of poems is The Meaning of Flight (Seren) and he has just completed a new novel, The Book of Idiots, which will be published in 2012. He is also involved with five artists in the project "Bog-Mawnog", responding to fire damage on a mountaintop in the Black Mountains in Powys. A booklet of Meredith's poems, Black Mountains, with images from the artists is being produced by Mulfran and there will also be an exhibition about the project in Brecknock Museum, 16th July to late September.


Toy Revolver

He loves its pointed symmetry
the lazy, opened hook of trigger
stock shaped to the palm
like a lover's hip,
opens it like unstoppering a flask
of magic that might spill.

He holds the chamber,
sectioned like fruit, close
to see each scoop and groove
each empty socket in the disc,
counts with a fingertip
six spaces for the dark seeds.

Interview and more poems behind cut )



Links to other poems and information

Breaking Wood - Christopher Meredith reading his own poem on YouTube.
What flight meant - a poem of Chris's featured on Jo Preston's writing blog.
Christopher Meredith's website
Seren, Christopher Meredith's publisher
Christopher Meredith's page on the Contemporary Writers website
A Woollen Line - the blog of Pip Woolf, who is involved with Meredith in the Bog-Mawnog project.
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
(a concept possibly more familiar in fan fiction than in litfic.) You know what I mean, that way a writer can casually drop a shared cultural reference which not only conveys in one or two words a huge cargo of meaning and information to his/her readers, but does it more powerfully than by any other method, both because of the weight of emotion and memory it already carries and because the reader has pretty much arrived at the meaning independently rather than being led there. It's extremely common in fan fiction because that relies on shared cultural references, but one good litfic example is Francis Lauderdale Adams' poem "Hagar", where by giving this title to a poem about an outcast unmarried mother, he conveys to anyone acquainted with the book of Genesis that not only is the girl in this condition, the man who caused it was almost certainly some patriarch, some pillar of the community (think master and housemaid).

It's harder to do in litfic these days, precisely because you can't rely on readers having heard of Abraham, Circe or various other mythological/historical personages whose names and stories were once common currency. And as soon as you have to add footnotes, much of the effect is gone. Nonetheless, one of my favourite poems is an 8-liner from 9th-century China which takes this technique to such extremes that when A C Graham translated it in his Poems of the Late T'ang (Penguin 1965) he had to paraphrase it for Western readers. Obviously these references wouldn't have been anything like as arcane to a T'ang Chinese reader as they are to us, and one can only guess at the way the meaning would have insinuated itself, trailing all the emotions and associations he's haunted it with. In the vague hope of re-creating something of that effect, the background info first:

The lovely and dissolute Queen of Wei once gave audience to Confucius behind a brocade curtain.
Prince O, out in a boat with his lover, piled embroidered quilts above her for warmth.
In the dance Drooping Hands, girls wear jade waist-pendants; in the dance Snapping Waists, they wear saffron skirts.
Shih Chung cooked a banquet over the flames of massed candles.
Hsun Yu exuded a natural perfume which lingered where he had been.
The poet Chiang Yen dreamed that a poet's ghost visited him to take back his brush of many colours; when he woke, he found he had lost his ability to write.
A goddess slept with King Huai in a dream; when she left he asked her name and she said "At dawn, I am the clouds of morning; at sunset the driving rain."

and here's the poem )
I never tried this on students, because some were ready enough to cry "elitist" if any poet used a reference they hadn't come across. But even without being able to experience it as a T'ang Chinese would have done, I still find its technique utterly enchanting. What interests me is that I can't think of any Western work, offhand, that uses this technique in the same intense, concentrated way as this one (unless indeed it would be certain fan fiction stories). I suppose Eliot is the obvious candidate, yet no poem of his works quite the way this does for me. It surely could be done, though, even with the decayed state of our cultural currency, and it'd be interesting to try.

EDIT: I've just realised I was 16 when I first read this in 1966 (the book was a birthday present from my best friend at school, thanks, Anna Cortens and where are you now?) and it totally changed my perception of what poems could be and do.
sheenaghpugh: (Vogon poetry appreciation chair)
How's this for a good marketing idea? Here is Paul Yandle's poem "Dogs" from the anthology of dog poems I blogged about in my last post, and he's recorded it not only with his rather lovely reading voice but set it to kinetic typography using words from the poem (and playing with said words visually; see what he does with "circling"). Curiously enough, though this uses modern technology, it had a precursor in the artist Paul Peter Piech, who used to make posters using text to create pieces of calligraphy. Mostly he used political texts but he did sometimes set poems too; he did a lovely one for Dannie Abse. This is an ingenious update of the technique; give it a listen!
sheenaghpugh: (Vogon poetry appreciation chair)
Exam time is icumen in, and many poor souls in schools up and down the country are wondering what to say to the examiners about poems, some of which are mine. This post is aimed at making sure they don't say some of the things I've recently heard people saying online.

I've blogged before about the perils of assuming that "the narrator" of a poem, especially one in the "I" voice, is the same person as "the poet", or that everything recorded in a work of art Actually Happened. A discussion I've lately been involved in on Facebook, though, makes it clear that some readers, even if they know it ain't necessarily so, think it should be; furthermore that they make a difference between novels and poems, at least lyric poems, in this regard. It's fine by these folk for novelists to make up a world; it may even be ok for writers of long narrative poems to do so, but there's a feeling that a lyric poem should come "from experience" (I have actually seen the phrase "from the heart" but am trying to forget it) and that if it's in the "I" voice the "I" should be the poet telling (heaven forbid) the truth about himself - whatever that is, and assuming he even knows it.

I don't know where this notion came from - the earliest real school of lyric poetry in Europe would surely have to be courtly love, which existed to celebrate purely imaginary love affairs - but it horrifies me quite a lot. For the record, when poets are minded to write about their personal experiences, they are very likely to distance the poem by putting it in the third person and making it happen to someone else, for the excellent reason that it avoids the danger of sentimentality. The most autobiographical poem Kipling ever wrote was the third-person "Merrow Down", which purports to be about a bereaved Neolithic father. By contrast The Changelings" (courtesy of Tim Kendall's blog "War Poets") is first-person and deals with experiences that weren't the poet's own at all; it's very much in persona.

I used to write poems in persona if I thought they might otherwise look too personal. These days I tend to third-person. But even if they do spring partly from my own experience, that is no reason to assume they won't also be adulterated with my reading, or other people's experiences, or, shocking as it may be to some, imagination... The fact is, poets are licensed liars; it's what we're good at and we can no more leave the facts of our own lives unembroidered and unimproved on than we can anything else. Nature is often a lousy writer; she gets details and endings wrong and frankly we can do better.

In a recent interview on this blog, my friend the poet Paul Henry described how he had excluded some of his best work from his Selected Poems because he was tired of seeing them read as autobiography. In the FB discussion I referred to earlier, someone said he felt "betrayed" on finding that a poem of Robin Robertson's in the "I" voice was not necessarily All True. Well, attend, O Best Beloveds in the AS-Level exam class, for I am about to utter a profundity: if you want The Truth, you go to the shelf in Waterstones marked Biography. (You still won't get it, but you will get something that aspires to it.) But if you're reading poems, and commenting on them in exams, remember that the "I" voice is correctly referred to as "the narrator". He/she is not, to your knowledge, "the poet", and there's no rule that says they should be.
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Mike Thomas is a serving police officer in Cardiff. His debut novel, Pocket Notebook, was published by Heinemann in 2010. It tells the dark but often comic story of Jacob Smith, a troubled and unorthodox policeman who uses his police notebook for the unauthorised purpose of chronicling his spiralling breakdown. Pocket Notebook was named one of the nine ‘Hot Books’ to watch out for at the 2009 London Book Fair and was on the 2010 Wales Book of the Year Long List.

In this excerpt, Jake has been suspended, and has no business being on patrol. But he goes anyway, into streets which he no longer sees in quite the same way as anyone else...

"What you've done here is just the start," I say, moving closer. "It's just a few small steps to a life of crime, boy. Possibly worse. You could end up as a threat to the security of the country. It's lucky I got to you so quickly. To nip it in the bud."
       "It's just spraying a wall..." one of them mutters, eyeing me with an odd expression.
       "Right", I say. "You've asked for it." I whip out the old Fixed Penalties, ask their names, addresses, dates of birth. The boxes of the pro forma aren't big enough for all the details but I write them down anyway. Fill in three of them as best I can, flip the top copy off each, hand one to each of the artistes.
       "What's this for?" Carrier Bag asks, looking at the chitty with a mystified expression.
       "A fine," I tell them. "For criminal damage."
       "But it's a parking ticket," he says, wrinkling his nose.
       "Don't be clever with me!" I yell, then clench my jaw as they look at each other; look at me. Start giggling. Cheeky little bastards.
       "Come on," Carrier Bag says to his chums. "Let's chip. This dude's a freak."
       My fingers toy with the mouse gun through the fabric of my cargos. I feel the muzzle, the trigger guard. The handle with its magazine of nine-millie bullets. "Laugh all you want, boys," I tell them as they shuffle towards the main drag. "You won't be laughing when you've got to find eighty quid each for those fines, yeah? Ha! Yeah? Are you listening to me?"
       They disappear around the corner. I hear screams of laughter. [...] Another small incident taken care of for the greater good. I pull out my cigar tin, select the half-smoked reefer, light it and take a long drag. I hold my breath, lean against the wall. Exhale. Nice. Very, very nice. Just chill and smoke and work out what you need to do next, Jake. I finish the spliff, stumble out of the alleyway.
       My face hurts and it takes a minute for me to realise I'm grinning uncontrollably. I really can't relax my cheeks or lips. Not to worry. Adds to the agreeable air. The smiling, helpful policeman. I nod at a couple more pensioners. Wave back at a bus full of primary school children, forget to stop waving even after the bus has driven off and it's just me shuffling down the street with my arm in the air.


Interview and links behind cut )


sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Paul Henry is one of Wales’s leading poets. The author of five collections of verse, he has read at festivals across the UK and Europe, and also in India. Originally a songwriter, Henry has guest-edited Poetry Wales and is a popular Creative Writing tutor. He recently presented the 'Inspired' series of arts programmes for BBC Radio Wales. His Selected Poems, The Brittle Sea, was published by Seren in 2010.

Dodging the Waves

The gap between the railings was thirty-five years.
The boy's ghost held on as the high tide raged
and the girl beside him laughed when she too got drenched.
"Who turned all the fairy lights blue?" "Who cares?"

The sea slid back down its pebbly stairs.
"Here comes a big one! Don't let go!" "Never!
I'll never let go!"

                                And both held on to the white bar
before both let go, their laughter caught inside the wave.

Interview and more poems behind cut )
Links to other poems and information


Paul Henry's website There are several more poems online here.
Paul reading "Daylight Robbery" and "The Black Guitar" on YouTube
Seren, publisher of The Brittle Sea
A review of The Brittle Sea from this blog
A previous discussion of Henry's long poem "Penllain" on this blog

sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Frank Dullaghan's collection On the Back of the Wind was published by Cinnamon in 2008 and is soon to be republished in an Italian translation. Frank, born in Dundalk, currently lives and works in Dubai and is working on another collection.



Night
I pass hooded doorways, the opening mouth of the alley,
a slab of a wall with its back against the sky (the sky
with its fierce eyes). Here are passing places, portals,
touch-points, gaps in hedge or banked earth where the force
of the night is heavy.
                                        It is here I come on my father,
leaning over the wall of a bridge. I know him by the sweet smell
of his pipe, the smoke that softens the air between us.
He is listening, it seems, to the slap of the water
as if for some message, some resolution.
                                        He knows I am here but he says nothing,
keeps his back turned, as if to face me might change too much.

Interview, more poems and links behind cut )
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Geraldine Paine's collection The Go-Away Bird is available from the publisher, Lapwing Press of Belfast, at lapwing.poetry@ntlworld.com and I reviewed it here.  It contains her sequence "Leaden Hearts" , partly-found poems derived from convict tokens - these men and women, leaving their homes and families for transportation to the other side of the world, left tokens with last messages for loved ones:

There could be no flowers,
no grave, just this voice
left behind, barely heard.
Did he guess
family shame
would gouge out his name?
                                                       When
                                                       this you
                                                       see remember
                                                       me and bear me
                                                       in your mind Let
                                                       all the world say
                                                       what they whill
                                                       Don't prove To
                                                       me un kind


Interview and more poems behind cut )
Links to more poems and information

Geraldine's page on the PoetryPF site - some poems and biographical information.

Amazon UK's page for The Go-Away Bird

The Basil Bunting Poetry Award - here you can listen to Geraldine's commended poem "The Creek"

sheenaghpugh: (Brain)
The Irony Font

It's many years now since an exasperated student of mine demanded how she was meant to guess that a sentence in the piece of prose we were reading was meant ironically, and suggested that authors should use a special "irony font" when saying things they didn't mean. It came back to my mind lately because someone mentioned how easy it is to have this mode of writing misunderstood online.
long witter continues by way of music-hall, Euripides, Swift, Defoe, Will Hay, Johnny Speight and other suspects )
sheenaghpugh: (Default)


Victor Tapner lives in Essex and is a freelance writer, having previously worked as a journalist on the Financial Times. He has published poems in many magazines and anthologies, and had success in several competitions – his poem Kalashnikov won the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2000. His first collection, Flatlands, has just been published by Salt and you can read more about it here

In one of my other interviews, the poet Paul Yandle spoke of how an early poem of Victor's, "Coffee Shop" had influenced him - "how delicate and beautiful it was, how the lines were perfectly weighted and balanced on top of the next and how such small details were made to become vibrant and massively affecting". Here's the poem:

Coffee Shop

Most evenings
he comes in
about this time.

Espresso,
cigarette,
an intelligent paper.

A seat
by the window,
facing in.

Jeans, jumper
and black brogues.
I like those.

I wipe the table,
sometimes twice.
When I lean over

with his cup
my apron tightens,
just a touch.

Most evenings
he comes in
about this time.

I always think
he won't.
And then he does.

More poems and interview )

Links to other poems

Victor Tapner's website

The Flatlands page on Salt's site.

Thames Idol, a poem from Flatlands, on the Essex Poetry Festival site.

Elizabeth Blackwell's Five Hundred Cuts, a third prizewinner in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, on the Academi website.
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Jim Mainland lives in Nibon, Shetland, and is a teacher. His collection of poems A Package of Measures was published by Pieces of Eight in 2000; he has also had work in many magazines and anthologies.

When Shetland Arts ran a project called Bards in the Bog, putting poems in public toilets to attract the world's most captive audience, Jim contributed this poem:

Prestidigitator

Watch this, watch my hands, look in my eyes:
this is viral, this is fiending, this is Celebrity Smash Your Face In,
I'm spooling tissue from an ear, I'm sawing her in half, no, really,
I'm vanishing your dosh, I'm giving it makeover, giving it bonus,
palming it, see, nothing in the box, check out
your divorce hell text tease sex tape, whoops,
gimme a tenner gimme your valuables this is a hammer this is an explosive
see the cleverdazzle off the mirrorgleam, moat me that you peasant!
over here, here, oy you, break-up Britain, toff off! watch this instead,
it's my way, it's bodies out of the hat, watch out, that's had your legs off,
this is brainsmear this is scorcher this is dying doing the job you loved this is
pure dead victim.
interview and more poems here )
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
Paul Yandle was born in Caerphilly in 1982 and grew up in the small ex-mining village of Abertridwr. He studied Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Glamorgan, graduated with a First in 2005 and gained an MPhil in 2010 – the research element consisted of a dissertation called "Adventures in Imaginative Travel: A Study of Movement and Manoeuvres in the Poetry of Billy Collins". His poems have been published in The North, Iota, Envoi and Poetry Wales and he also has work in the competition prize-winners' anthology Out of Love (Leaf Books 2006). He works in a video store and is training to be a teacher.

Paul's website is here and you can find several of his poems there. His poem "Aging", published in Iota no 75 (2006), is here

interview and poems here )
sheenaghpugh: (Do somethin' else!)
There are fashions in writing; there always have been, and being in tune with them does sometimes make odds to one's chances of publication. For instance, the Holy Grail for some publishers, both in prose and poetry, has lately been to find young, male writers who concentrate on urban settings and "gritty" themes. (I assume this is in order to appeal to young male readers, though since by far the most novels are bought by women, it would seem a strange marketing strategy to ignore the likely buyers and focus on the unlikely ones.) In poetry especially, it has been fashionable to dismiss anything with a rural setting or preoccupations on the ground that most readers live in towns and want to see their own background reflected in what they read (yes, that would make the popularity of fantasy and histfic inexplicable, but I guess that just underlines the way that for the litfic establishment, Genre Doesn't Count). Poets have long been accused of concentrating on nightingales and seascapes and ignoring "real life". Rural isn't contemporary.

Though I've always thought this a bit daft, it never actually affected me before, because I was by nature very urban, my curiosity directed more towards people than places, and that reflected in my writing.
Now, however )
sheenaghpugh: (Anthony Gormley's Another Place)
It's a prose writer this time, or mainly so, though her luminous, lyrical prose makes many poets look prosy to me. Ruth Lacey was born in 1962 in Sydney where she grew up. She earned her law degree from the University of Melbourne, and an M.Phil in writing from the University of Glamorgan in Wales, in 2006. For the last two decades, Ruth has been living in a small kibbutz in the Galilee region of Israel, and has worked as a legal adviser, community manager, freelance journalist, magazine editor and copywriter. Her short stories have been published in literary journals in the US, UK, Australia and Israel, including The Best of Carve Anthology, Voyage, Arc, Overland, and Verbsap. Ruth has just completed a new novel, and is working on a new story collection.
Interview, poem, short story and link to another story here )
sheenaghpugh: (Default)
I'm hoping to do a series of interviews with writers, chosen for no better reason than that I like them, and this is the first.

After 15 years in the financial markets, Rosie Shepperd studied Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London, and is currently working on an MPhil in Poetry at the University of Glamorgan. She has had poems published in magazines such as Magma and The Rialto and won the 2007 Writer's Inc. Bursary. She also made the shortlist for the Manchester Poetry Prize with the poems online here

What I love about her poems is their exuberant playing with words and space, their way of using humour to say something dead serious, and their capacity to surprise, using umpteen voices while somehow always sounding like Rosie. If I had to choose one word to describe her voice, it would be the 19th-century coinage "slantendicular" - not just quirky but somehow subverting the norm, so that the aslant becomes the perpendicular.

interview and poems )
sheenaghpugh: (Anthony Gormley's Another Place)
There's nowt more fun than a poetry barney, especially between male poets, who are, in my experience, generally touchier, cattier and more easily wounded than the female variety, and this one on Todd Swift's blog, about a recent anthology, addresses interesting questions of identity; how does someone get to be "British"? But I think the underlying question is rather about what anthologies should be for, and whether there was any point at all in the criteria for this one.

To reprise the quote from Mallarmé in an earlier post: poetry is not made of ideas, it is made of words. An anthology is supposed to collect together poems that have some intrinsic similarity, and in my view such a likeness, to be at all meaningful, can be based only on one of two things: (1) how different people react in words to a common theme or situation, eg "poems of the Great War", or (b) the way people use words, full stop.

It follows that anthologies of "women poets" are a nonsense for starters, unless you believe that all women intrinsically use language similarly to each other and differently from men. Age-based ones are silly too; we do not suddenly change our attitude to language, or indeed the world, on reaching 30. It follows also, IMO, that nationality, of itself, doesn't matter either. What may matter is deracination, as people living and working in a language or idiom they did not grow up with may well have a different slant on the language and a different way of using it. I could happily read an anthology of poets working in a second language, or poets still working in their native language but living abroad, where the idiom is different, and who haven't been away from home long enough to assimilate into the new idiom. Deracinated Poets would be a fun anthology, and have some point to it. But just being what either Todd Swift or Roddy Lumsden calls "British" doesn't strike me as any reason to assume such poets have an intrinsic identity or likeness to each other. Another definition: that of Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle:

A karass: a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to a common destiny.
A granfalloon: a false karass; i.e., a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist, "a seeming team that [is] meaningless in terms of the way God gets things done.". Examples include "any nation, any time, anywhere".

Most poetry anthologies are granfalloons. This doesn't prevent their being interesting and containing good work, but they are meaningless in terms of the way poetry gets things done.
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 08:00 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios