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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Poetry Centenaries in 2009

2009 has its fair share of poetry centenaries - 100th anniversaries of births and deaths - of notable poets. These include (feel free to add more):

Births in 1909 of - A.M. Klein; Stephen Spender; and Robert Garioch. Deaths in 1909 0f - Davidson; Swinburne; and Meredith.

Of these, A.C. Swinburne's seems the biggest, and perhaps the least likely anniversary to be properly feted (time will tell). Is it time to reclaim greatness for the recluse of Putney? Perhaps ironically, or fortuitously, the infamous bircher died just as Hulme and Co. were meeting with Pound to plan a ways to trim the Victorian (perceived) excesses of Algie's erotic diction. Instead, they wanted "hard" (not effeminate) language. This sexist, misogynist modernist tendency tends to suppress the radical artifice, and excessive textual erotics at play, in Swinburne's powerfully "queer" poetry.

Meanwhile, Klein, arguably Canada's greatest 20th century poet, is hardly read or known beyond the Quebec borders. Spender's reputation is at an all-time low, and Meredith and Davidson seem to be (increasingly, and sadly) footnotes. Against oblivion, indeed. Poets may find comfort in the recent news that the universe will be destroyed in only 7 Billion Years as galaxies collide (my bride, my bride). We won't have to endure Heaney's fame, then, for a true eternity.
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