Skip to main content

The Guardian's Modern Poetry Classics

The Guardian is one of the more left-leaning, liberal, newspapers, but whenever it reports on Poetry with a capital P, it tends to be about as radical as The Daily Telegraph or The Sun.  Witness its big spread in Friday's G2 section, which, to its credit, emphasizes the good news that "Poetry" is alive and well in the UK, and, according to Don Paterson (cue that photo of his blue piercing gaze) selling as well as much literary fiction.  Alongside this lively piece, is a brief canonical to-read-list, by Sarah Crown, suggesting 8 "essential poets": Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Sean O'Brien, Don Paterson, Craig Raine, Geoffrey Hill, Jo Shapcott and Alice Oswald.  Not one of these poets, of course, deserves to not be listed - they are all very good poets, and a handful of them may be touched by genius.

Still, it seems a little wearying to see that this establishment list is offered as the main example of what's on offer today - after all the hoopla in the main article.  These are the poets published by Faber, Penguin, and Picador - top list poets from large presses.  Not one poet on the list is from Bloodaxe, or Carcanet, Salt, or represents the other traditions in contemporary UK poetry, such as performance, or late modernist, or for that matter, Black or Asian, or post-colonial, poetics.  Further, "Poetry" tends to be equated with British poetry, without really indicating how global English-language poetry has become, or how fragmented and multiple it is, in terms of style and intention.

One sees how, conservatively, reputations are consolidated in London, through prize-winning, and publication.  My quarrel is not with these poets, whose poetry is all excellent, but with journalistic lists that exclude different options for readers, readers targeted precisely for their relative ignorance of the subject.  Nor does The Guardian ever mention the politically-engaged poems and poets of the UK, of which there are many.  Also missing is mention of the little magazines and small pamphlet presses like The Wolf and Tall-lighthouse, Oystercatcher, and HappenStance, where so much now happens - or indeed blogs like Eyewear and many others.  As often is the case with such articles, the intention to big up poetry, but the usual lazy reaching for comfortable Rolodex yields relatively stale and over familiar news.  In this case, the article is good news, but it could have been even better.
6 comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE BEVERLY PRIZE SUPER SHORTLIST FINALISED!

Dr Bruce Meyer, a significant Canadian poet and writer, will be the final judge for this year's Beverly Prize For International Writing - the impressive super shortlist of 18 international poets and writers is announced below.
Any original unpublished manuscript, in English, by anyone living anywhere in the world, writing in any genre or on any topic, prose, non-fiction or poetry (even drama) is eligible, making it arguably the world's most eclectic "broad church" literary scouting prize. Last year's debut winner was Sohini Basak (her book is being launched in Bloomsbury July 5th, 2018).

The rules of the prize stipulate that any author chosen for the shortlist agrees to accept publication with Eyewear if judged to be the final winner; and may not be entered into other competitions at this final stage of adjudication.
Bruce Meyer is author of more than 60 books of poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, literary journalism, and portraiture. He was winner of the Gwendolyn…

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,…

THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



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