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Saturday, 28 June 2008

Salt: Into The Hands of the People

An interesting post from Curiosa Hamiltona on Salt's Brave New World pronouncements. A lot of Salt's blog post sounds like the sort of thing I (and many other poetry activists) have been saying (and fighting for) for the last ten or more years (i.e., open up a space for more poets, more readers, and use the net do so). My six-year-old essay for Vallum, above, for instance, suggests the idea of a fragmented, diverse, and lifestyle-based audience for poets.

This poetry activisim, on my part, was never done to make money - maybe even to lose money - (I am not a "salesman"). I have shown conviction, by sticking to a long-time policy of supporting various kinds of poetries and poetics (Fusion Poetry), and encouraging free or easy access to poetry, via new media. However, when I say this, some radical critics call me a capitalist or worse (though I advocate mainly free distribution via the Internet) - but when Salt puts it into practice, they are somehow suddenly above reproach.

The idea that poetry is "for everyone" is good in principle, but trite pap when put into practice. Read Bernstein, among others, on this. There is a little thing called "taste" - and sadly, in Britain, most people without much experience of poetry express an interest in precisely the sort of neo-Georgian slice-of-life empirical rubbish that Salt poets and poetics used to question, and present a viable alternative to. The Salt "brand" is in danger of becoming meaningless - all things to all people.

Salt is right to note that the arrival of an under-40 generation of poets and performers using the Internet, stage tours, and other digital means, signals a relatively new wave of production, and consumption of poetry (one that has, in fact, been happening, since the late 90s). I am an administrator of the first, and one of the largest, Facebook poetry groups, for example, with over 2,400 active members. This wave of writing is simply not reviewed, or discussed, with any seriousness, in the British media, even in that section concerned with literary coverage - nor is it represented by most publishers of poetry in the UK - although Eggbox and other small presses are starting to do it.

If there is a poem or poet for every reader, how soon do we devolve down the lonely path to a private-language scenario, or a "that painting goes well with my walls" attitude. Poetry can be difficult. It is not meant to only please, or entertain, or appeal to, readers - but to confront, provoke, and challenge (as Salt's own back catalogue establishes).
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