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Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Presentation of Blogs in Everyday Life

David Wheatley has been having fun over at his clever blog about how Eyewear's claim to be a persona seems to evade responsibility for one's critical position. His response is patently foolish.

What I said was: "this blog is a text (indeed, intertextual) and full of shifting registers of discourse - not a transparent medium for the simple expression of an ego" - in order to counter the idea that blog-writing is simply a "lyric I" poem by another name. It isn't. "Eyewear" is a persona - a collection of gestures, attitudes, tics, styles, conventions - that shifts. It isn't meant to be "me" - whatever a me might mean - but nor is it "not Todd Swift", either. What I am not is James Bond, though.

Wheatley's position is foolish for any number of reasons. Students of the philosophy of identity will know that we are never the same twice. This flux is not alarming, because much of what we are appears to be the same over time - but no one who is intelligent denies anyone the right to age, or change their views, as they learn. As such, even critics alter their views on writers - as Leavis did with Eliot. Sometimes, as with Wittgenstein, there is a "later" period, as the change becomes very wide, between an early and later position.

In this way, Eyewear need not be unique in refusing to claim 100% consistency of tone or opinion, over time. That does not mean Eyewear avoids responsibility, however, for previously held views - which is why past posts are archived, and not deleted - except where revision has been deemed necessary. Auden, of course, edited his early poems, and sometimes ruined them. Sometimes, the earlier period does seem the better one.

On the question of a blog being, or having, a "persona" - well, of course they can, and often do. Using masks, as Wheatley knows, is part of the modern Irish tradition. Yeats's dialogues with aspects of his selves, and his historical counterparts, often was channeled through the mask - this much is common knowledge. It seems farcical, then, for a leading contemporary Irish poet-critic to mock me (he is after all a "Mocker") - for claiming to use a poetic device in my writing which allows for the presentation of different aspects of the self.

Further, "Eyewear", the blog, is not the work of one person - but many hands. Eyewear is a magazine, as much as a person. Does the TLS have but one critic, or one view? No. Yet, it has a house-style, and a tendency.

Eyewear's tendency (sometimes mocked, but never proven indefensible) is to search for areas of connection, rather than division, among poets, in poetics; to argue for the existence of an original creator for the universe (the entire set of sets); to encourage writers of poetry to publish; and to argue against closed-shop nationalism in poetries, and on behalf of a more global awareness. Eyewear is broadly suspicious of capitalism's tendency to reify, but is not Marxist. Eyewear does enjoy a good movie on the telly. Eyewear knows it has, inherent in its system, divisions. Eyewear has sympathies with Liberation Theology. Finally, Eyewear believes that, at the end of the day, men and women should seek to be kind to one another, and to place love above self-interest - and that goes for poets, too, who, sadly, in their struggle, often lose sight of that, and are sometimes the most selfish, and self-directed agents of all.

This last ethical perspective is sometimes deemed amusing, even impossible, to a certain kind of "lone wolf" poet - usually a middle-aged male - who valorises the rugged-individual-as-artist stereotype above all others - and likes Larkin's model of "get stewed". To them, writers are inherently flawed people - as if trying to be kind to each other was inherently anti-creative. Yes, some self-interest, some "ice in the heart", may be required of the editor, the critic, even the creative writer - yet many great authors and texts have been directly engaged with concern for others. Poetry is an isolated act, yet it need not be isolating.

The British model of things in the last 100 years has been to create "schools" of poetry, and schisms, and forge ahead as best one can. This has often lead to marginalisation of (many) writers who do not fit in. This Darwinian, ruthless, Alpha Male, approach, is outmoded, beastly, and not inherently related to art or poetry - but mirrors the savage and untenable social and patriarchal divisions that still damage Britain today. Britain, after all, has its power from commerce, industry, and former imperial trappings - and none of these is gained, or held, without force. This brutishness has seaped into the culture - for the culture of the UK tends, with its prizes, and its lists, and its clubs, and societies - to be endlessly based on exclusion and inclusion, who's up and down, in or out. It's all more than a little sad.

The pipsqueaks can use satire as they like (which is always flattering, to both the target and the satirist) to marvel at my locquacious tenacity and naive overflow of expression - but what they really don't like is a gadly in their inkwell who doesn't care about their coterie or the cut of their suit - who finally asks, ah, but what kind of person are you? Are you kind? For kindness, friends, is a decision to be good, and attentive, to another, to others - and never stales, is never out of fashion, and is beyond theory. It is the rock on which the very act of writing and reading is based - generosity. Unkind writers are, at heart, writers who loathe themselves.
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