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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ten

Tony Judt, who has died, would have had something to say about the new Bloodaxe anthology, Ten, edited by Daljit Nagra and Bernardine Evaristo - since it is an "identity" anthology - a selection of "multicultural" (in the UK case, Black and Asian) poets.  I haven't seen it yet, and want to.  It is, as all will agree, high time such poets were more widely published and celebrated.

The question remains, for the mainstream British poetry community, why such voices, such poets, tend to be marginal, special cases, requiring such a showcase - their own stage.  Of course, both Voice Recognition and Identity Parade included Black and Asian poets from Britain - and this book offers a satisfying trilogy for any shelf.  The woeful lack of interest in "multicultural" poets in the UK by many larger publishers has something to do with the conservative bent, the careful career-pruning, of some.  Tone and diction and intent are so important for English poetry, especially, that new registers and themes and ranges can be misread, or read accurately, as beyond the tonal limits.

"Good" English poetry is so often about restraint, about a drained verbal landscape.  Multicultural writing, to use that awkward term, and here I think Salman Rushdie is the exemplar, offers a rioutous hybrdity that by its very post-colonial and talk-back nature is rebarbative at times, and surely, "bad" in a good way - see the claims that Nagra was a "bad poet" in Arete magazine a few years back.  If Ten gets readers for these poets they didn't have before, that's the job done.  Might it be too much to hopethat future anthologies will be able to include such poets not because they have been marginal, but because they no longer are?
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