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Friday, 31 July 2009

Duffy Unleashed

Taxpayers of Britain cannot complain - their money is not being wasted by the new laureate. Carol Ann Duffy has been reading poems on the BBC, and editing sections of "leading" poets for newspapers, of late, often with a war theme. I've been there, done that. Good to see someone else - belatedly - pick up the baton and run with the anti-war and poetry theme - Tim Kendall alert! Was it just me, or was Muldoon's poem particularly cryptic, even for him? The problem with writing poems about Panther's Claw, or any other part of the Af-Pak campaign, is that it isn't out of the fog of war yet - and such ambiguity, while good for at least seven types of poetry - may not be the best for anti-war verse. Owen, of course, knew what he was against. Douglas - that sublime sociopath - knew what he saw, and liked and loathed it. But they saw war.

In the case of Iraq, the initial attack was illegal - that was the point of contention. However, the current Helmand struggles, over or not, are not "illegal". They don't seem even to be immoral. It's war, sure, but more to the point, nation-building. I think the British government, if it wants to continue to have a war, needs to support the troops properly, and also care for them without being cheap, on their wounded return. A nation either supports its troops or not.

GB - and thus, Duffy - wants it both ways, I fear - wants to support the valiant men, and the idea of valour, especially in aged men of World War I - but also wants to question empire and imperialism and warlike behaviour. Lord knows, many of us do. We like the idea of just wars, and good soldiers - it's the power struggles and ideology that make us uneasy. So, the laureate's efforts are noble, and actively engaged - but what is the message? Is it that war is bad, but warriors, finally, decent chaps? That way lies Newbolt, not Hugh Selwyn M. But again, it is the English poetic tradition to opt for the idea of decency (Edward Thomas) not atrocity, is it not?

Meanwhile, this inquiry will be a whitewash with red tint. How can the establishment police its own in such a way? The head of the inquiry has told the BBC oaths are not required, since no one would be "wicked enough" to lie in public. I see, so they might be wicked enough to start an illegal war, lie to a whole nation, but not be capable of a mistruth? The presumption of innocence that attends such events would be laughable if not so pitifully inadequate.
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