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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Action Stations!

The Guardian online has noticed Eyewear had a literary debate with Sean Bonney, recently, and mentions it within the context of literary feuds. It's a fun article, and good to see.

However, the criticism in the post, that I sometimes write on this blog in a sort of postgraduate-speak misses the point: sometimes I do, sometimes I don't - and the flexibility not to have to speak like a mouthpiece for Comrade Stalin, or Adorno trashing Jazz, is the difference in the world between those who think Goethe was a rebel or a philistine. He, was, of course, both. Hence, complicated, and neither.

Eyewear believes poetry can be, variously, fun, engaged, and postmodern in its reference to pop culture - but it doesn't have to be. Poet-critics like Bonney have a bee in their bonnet about what Poetry Has To Be. Such diktats don't do poets, or poems, any good.

Poetry should be ethically engaged, indeterminate, linguistically innovative, or lyric - as it wants. Style is the key. Better to read a good Larkin poem than a bad one by Trevor Joyce; and vice versa. Ah, but shouldn't we stop apple-and-oranging all the time? Read (and write) poems according to one's lights - not in darkness. Meanwhile, some literary feuds are sadly one-sided, and go on too long. Those who say politics has no part in poetry fail to realise how deeply many of the most serious poets are implicated in debates over poetics, which is politics by another name: how you write a poem says how you want to make the world.
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