Skip to main content

British Petroleum and American Impatience

The BBC 4 morning radio programme today featured a brief discussion of the cultural language differences between the US and UK which have tended to exacerbate the current Gulf of Mexico Spill Disaster's impact.  It seems perhaps a sign of BBC-media-navel-gazing to think that language is the main spur of the rage around the crisis, when perhaps massive environmental, social and economic degradation has more to do with it.  Yet, as we now know, Tony Hayward, BP's hardhat-wearing bumpkin, has infuriated an entire nation, and is now almost as hated as Osama bin Laden.  According to this BBC discussion, the idea was mooted that Hayward's accent and way of speaking itself was a red rag to the Yankee bull.  I would not be surprised.  Sometimes, it is is possible to misread (from a NA perspective) English sarcasm / wit as mere rudeness, especially when expressed in the sort of accent one associated with Nazi villains from the movies.  However, most of us are sophisticated enough to accept the crass likes of Ozzy and Russell Brand into our lunkheaded American hearts and minds, along with Alistair Cooke et al.  No, the main problem with BP is not the British, but the Petroleum.  But I am sure this will hurt reception of British poets in the short term.


Popular posts from this blog

Review of the new Simple Minds album - Walk Between Worlds

Taste is a matter of opinion - or so goes one opinion. Aesthetics, a branch of pistols at dawn, is unlikely to become unruffled and resolved any time soon, and meantime it is possible to argue, in this post-post-modern age, an age of voter rage, that political opinion trumps taste anyway. We like what we say is art. And what we say is art is what likes us.

Simple Minds - the Scottish band founded around 1977 with the pale faces and beautiful cheekbones, and perfect indie hair cuts - comes from a time before that - from a Glasgow of poverty and working-class socialism, and religiosity, in a pre-Internet time when the heights of modernity were signalled by Kraftwerk, large synthesisers, and dancing like Bowie at 3 am in a Berlin club.

To say that early Simple Minds was mannered is like accusing Joyce of being experimental. Doh. The band sought to merge the icy innovations of German music with British and American pioneers of glam and proto-punk, like Iggy Pop; their heroes were contrived,…


Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.