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Saturday, 22 September 2007

Bill Griffiths Is Dead

The British poet Bill Griffiths, some of whose work was published by Coach House in Canada, has died. He did a number of things remarkably well, it seems. Griffiths was a member of the British Poetry Revival, which briefly took over the Poetry Society, and the editing of the Poetry Review, before being basically ejected by a more mainstream consensus. This event has become the central mythic moment - the expulsion from Eden, say - in one version of the story of the battle between the Poetry Establishment and the free radicals, as it were ("The Conductors of Chaos") of British poetry. Unfortunately, this Manichean duality masks deeper, more complex, and sometimes even more fruitful differences, and similarities, between various poetic positions available to poets writing in the post-1945 world. It does seem the case, though, that after Griffiths and his cohorts were removed from their astonishing ascendancy in central London - an interregnum period if ever there was one - never again would marginal, experimental, and/or postmodernists be so recognized as part of the discourse of contemporary British poetry. It continues to be vaguely scandalous, or at least sad, for instance, the the usual list of T.S. Eliot nominees, never or rarely includes work by poets outside of the mainstream. For that matter, Geoffrey Hill tends to be overlooked too. Something contra Cambridge?
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