Skip to main content

Horizontal Position In An Age of Anxiety

Eyewear was flipping through an issue of Horizon the other day - Vol. XIX from May 1949 - and came across a review by one Mr. Patrick Dickinson. The shameful notice by Dickinson of Auden's The Age of Anxiety was not seemingly sympathetic to his kind of writing.

He writes that "a general kind of obscurity suits best the superficially oracular as it also suits best any literary period dominated by homosexual taste which causes the expression of the emotions to be obscure, or symbolic, or dishonest, Such taste prefers a precocious adolescent kind of literature and criticism - it is a taste which has perforce certain gaps in experience, violent prejudices, and whose critical judgements are formed for other than literary reasons."

This example of its own kind of violent prejudice would be startling, if not sadly quite a common position, then (and now) with regards to certain tendencies in Modern British (and American) poetry of the 1940s (and beyond). It's curious that the obvious bias of some evaluative criticism is not more clearly recognised by those doing the critical judging.

Mr. Dickinson, of course, tries to conflate the terms "obscure", "symbolic" and "dishonest" - and can just about get away with this, given that, from Wordsworth on (and surely via F.R. Leavis and Scrutiny) a kind of honesty was earned by a lack of complex, rich, or overtly oracular diction. What is interesting is how this so-called "homosexual taste" - basically, the opposite of the coming Movement's austerity - is still active in American poetry, via, say O'Hara and John Ashbery - and happily so.

In the UK, though no longer publicly expressed in the crude way of this Horizon notice, many similar prejudices of taste occur among some reviewers who desire a robust, clear, and vocally mainstream (less ornate, less oracular) approach in poetry. Several major contemporary British poet-anthologists have lamented the "hysterical" and "florid operatics" of Dylan Thomas, for instance. According to one critical perspective, the kind of rhetorical exuberance that Auden - and also Thomas, in his own way - expressed - was not what poetry was meant to be. I think, and often write, otherwise.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

SEXTON SHORTLIST!

Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton PrizeSeptember 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio
Eyewear Publishing is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize. The finalists are, in no particular order, as follows:


THE BARBAROUS CENTURY, Leah Umansky
HISTORY OF GONE, Lynn Schmeidler
SEVERE CLEAR, Maya Catherine Popa
GIMME THAT. DON’T SMITE ME, Steve Kronen
SCHEHERAZADE AND OTHER REDEPLOYMENTS, David McAleavey
AN AMERICAN PURGATORY, Rebecca Gayle Howell
SIT IN THE DARK WITH ME, Jesse Lee Kercheval

The shortlist was selected by Eyewear’s Director Todd Swift with Senior Editor Kelly Davio. Don Share of Poetry Magazine will select the winning manuscript, which will be released at the 2017 AWP conference in Washington, D.C. The winner will be announced in October. 
Congratulations to our finalists!