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The New Establishment

In the 1970s, there was a moment when Hamilton, Larkin, Hughes and Heaney were all still alive and knew each other - and were, arguably, the poetic establishment of these isles.  A little later, Motion, Raine, Cope and Muldoon took that position (with Heaney still there of course).  However, a seismic shift has now taken place in 2009/2010, a real changing of the guard.

For it is now that a clear new triumvirate in British poetry has emerged and been confirmed as heads above the rest of us mere mortals, in terms of gongs and honours: Duffy, Paterson, and Armitage.  These are the poets that will be - for good or ill - anthologised in most future anthologies of this period - they are this period's "key" mainstream figures; there are others, of course, but that's not the point - in the race to become household names, "national treasures", these are the ones that secured the honour.  For, observe closely - first Duffy was made Poet Laureate, then Paterson was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal, and now, in her majesty's birthday honours, yesterday, Simon Armitage was made a CBE.

In terms of who represents the new "shadow" establishment, building on the work of Graham, Bunting, Prynne, Riley, Cobbing and Mitchell, there has yet to be consensus.  I'd - off the cuff - nominate Keston Sutherland, Andrea BradyZoe Skoulding,Chris McCabe and Giles Goodland.  Arise!


Tom Phillips said…
It does, indeed, seem to be true that English poetry can't bear too much celebrity - which is maybe a good thing - though the idea of Duffy, Paterson and Armitage lining up outside Buckingham Palace in their bearskin hats is rather amusing. Perhaps that should be the cover pic for one of those putative future anthologies.
Hey Todd, I think you must have accidently deleted my last post that said as a British-Canadian-Irish person, as you claim (or poet at least), you will be able to articulate these cultural subtleties.

If I was a parnoid person I'd think you were deliberately not publishing the comment because you only want posts on here which don't gently giggle.

Come on, you're a fellow brit and Irish comrade in Letters, don't shatter my dream you're a stand up guy, please.

chant - is the word verification

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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.