Thursday, 24 November 2005

Is Modern Poetry Mostly "Arse-Dribble"? Revisited & Revised In The Light Of New Information

The man to the right of the page is none other than Stephen Fry.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, October 23, 2005 (just brought to my attention today) Mr. Fry has had it up to here with modern poetry which is mostly "arse-dribble".

He is also "sniffy about" the poet laureate Andrew Motion, and thinks that the series of e-books I edited, with Val Stevenson of Nthposition, the 100 Poets Against the War series "pathetic, naive, like small noisy tantrums". He thinks modern poets are lazy: "you cannot work too hard at poetry".

No, you can't. First task on the road of manual labour (after all, Fry once played a witty genius in a film, Oscar Wilde) is to actually read some "modern poetry" which Fry clearly hasn't.

Simply put, Dr. Fry has made the cardinal error of conflating the speed of delivery of poetry in the Internet age (i.e. e-books and poems on web sites and blogs) with the time, or care, taken to actually write said poems. Given the evident lack of time or care taken by Professor Dr. Fry to compose his own reflections on poesy, mostly modern, this is particularly ironic. I could give you six other types, but won't bother. Fry is no Empson.

That being said, Fry's new book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking The Poet Within, from Hutchinson, London, is a Christmas book no good or bad boy/girl -poet should be without. Form is something ALL poets need to know about, if only to further enjoy their deviant language. And Fry is right to hammer this home with velvet tongs.

Curiously, on page 324 or so of this arch-traditionalist Magnum Opus, in the section titled "Poetry Today" (Fry gives this important subject less than 1/300 of the whole book), the author cites several worthy poets now at work, including my former tutor, Denise Riley, as well as "Jeremy" Prynne (the most divisive, difficult and innovative UK poet now working, known to most readers as J.H. Prynne) and Tom Raworth - one feels Fry hasn't read them, since their work is, though clearly formed by superb classical training, utterly opposed to the general conservative drift of the manual in toto.

Oh, and Andrew Motion is the best Poet Laureate since Tennyson.
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