Skip to main content

Motion Unbound

Andrew Motion has been a poet laureate that Eyewear could deal with - in the way that Pound had commerce with Whitman.

Motion has been good - more or less - for poetry in Britain, 1999-2009. His most important work may have been his poetry about bullying, and the Iraq War (related themes), but for most people, the Poetry Archive will seem the lasting monument. I personally regret never having been asked to record for that Archive, but then again, nothing about the poetry establishment in the UK will ever surprise me - I have lived here for over 6 years, and am still treated like an arriviste every day.

Anyway, back to Motion, whose support of my work with Oxfam and those poetry CDs was instrumental. His agreement to read at the first-ever Oxfam event way back in 2004 (five years ago now) meant that Wendy Cope also came onboard, as well as Agbabi and Dark. After that event, all the other great and talented poets were more willing to appear. I think Motion is a very fine, serious poet, and a complex, deeply intelligent, and sensitive man. I also think he is somewhat old-fashioned, but in a flexible and open-eyed way; he tried to more than cope with the rapid changes of our times - and embraced new poetics, and media, more often than not.

This post is occasioned by his article in The Guardian, today, marking his coming retirement. It's refreshingly honest, though perhaps still guarded (more will come later I assume). For one thing, he suggests that Hughes' "great poet" status may be a disservice to the man and work (which is ironic, since no one has done more in these isles to establish Heaney's great poet status than Motion, with, I think similar results there).

Another thing he points out is how negatively journalists, even the top editors, approach poetry, and poems - they are not news, and to be news, they need to be mocked or undermined. I have a similar thought. Recently, after launching The Manhattan Review Young British Poets anthology in London - and the night was a resounding success - a journalist approached me, to say he had wanted to write an article for The Sunday Times about the new generation of young poets, but his editor "didn't like poetry and thought it was dead" so had killed the story.

Too many UK journalists are sour on poetry, and infect the good news with their own toxins. In this way, the lively and burgeoning poetry communities of the UK, in all their variety and passion are daily diminished.

I agree with Motion that poetry, as he writes today, is an essential aspect of being human - or can be. Religion, poetry, myth, dance, music, drawing - all such "primitive" aspects of our imaginative existence tend to be shunted aside in a world devoted to management-speak, consumption and commerce, and science on the march - which is tragic, especially now, at a time when it is becoming evident that industry and science has gifted the world with an unpayable bill, and global warming may - Heaven forbid! - destroy us.

One thing nags at me, though, about Motion's complaint that writing engaged lyric poems about the Royals was taxing (for him, nearly impossible apparently) - it seems hard to fathom. I don't understand it, myself. Obviously, Motion believes poems must be occasioned by organically-sympathetic experiences, in much the same way as Wordsworth. If he followed the more mechanistic line of Larkin, let alone someone more ludic, or artifice-interested, like VF-T, he could well have created fascinating texts about the Royal Family - unmoored from any personal connection, true, but no less poetic in their exploration of language. The connection between spontaneous inspiration and poetic achievement that Motion inscribes in this essay will, in a small way, limit how poetry is understood in Britain - or, rather, reinforce 200-year-old beliefs.
7 comments

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…