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Friday, 20 February 2009

Futurism 100 Years Old!

100 years ago today, Marinetti proclaimed the virtues of Futurism. There is something melancholy about such an anniversary, since it emphasizes the way that history has a way of becoming antiquated, and the new of becoming old hat. For the experimentalist wings of 21st century poetry, avant-garde work of 100 years ago continues to be a red herring with the scent of an elixir - a potent promise of renewed relevance - even though its historic course, as Danto argues (persuasively to a point) the age of manifestos is kaput. Still, poetic enterprise lacks any vim if it doesn't have some lead in its pencils, and that just may be a fuel driven by youth, energy, or even brash stupidity.

Futurism retains its ability to shock and amuse, if not inspire, because its design style is impressive, and because its claims are truly destabilising. Much of what Futurism endorsed, of course, seems "morally wrong" - notably the celebration of the beauty of war - and hardly the stuff to sit well with ecocritics (machines, etc.) - but the painting, especially, offered a way of seeing that was vital and novel. Poetry seems always caught between the twin seducers novelty and tradition - the one old and doddering, the other suave and all-too-infantile. The urge is for poetry to be forever closing - and opening - onto new vistas. Currently, London has a bunch of young poets and impresarios, like Tom Chivers, shaking things up. Will a new manifesto emerge? One half-hopes so.

Otherwise, the ongoing rather tedious "marketing" of poetry will continue, where large publishers basically chew up and spit out a few new "new poets" every decade, expecting the public to lap them up. As for Futurism's speed - did that become Virilio's velocity?
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