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Saturday, 5 April 2008

How To Dislike Poetry

Poetry always lays claim to a Golden Age just behind the corner. Perhaps poetry was always, more or less, unpopular - mainly of interest to a few. It seems that, in 1947, according to Time, the problems for poetry were not that far removed from in the schools today.

Nor was contemporary poetry more appreciated in the 1950s. According to John Press in The Chequer'd Shade (London: OUP, 1958), Stephen Spender stormed out (in protest) of a poetry reading being held at a Foyle's literary luncheon when Lord Samuel took the occasion to attack "the vice of obscurity" ruining British poetry, and read out, with evident distaste, a poem by Dylan Thomas, starting "A grief ago..." - such distaste still evident today among many English poet-critics.

A new acclaimed book by fellow-Montrealer and music critic, Carl Wilson, on the music of Celine Dion, has taken the subject of distaste in a fun and fascinating direction - he loathed her work, and sets out to comprehend why she is still loved by millions. Perhaps, as he argues, criticism needs "the bad" in order to have a "good" and justify its own role. Perhaps taste and critical evaluation are hardwired into us, or merely lifestyle choices, or - well, I am still reading, but it is an engaging study in experimental aestheticism.
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