Skip to main content

No Logos, or Howl About It

It isn't true that poets, neglected or little read in their own time, will be discovered later, or that poets find other poets, and are able to champion them and bring them to light, - at least as far as a wider general public is concerned.  My doctoral research into poets of the 1940s has shown me the reverse - that good poets tend to oblivion, unless they are thoroughly fortunate, in friends, in connections, and, mainly in media attention.  The new movie Howl confirms the trend - poets known to the public get recycled.

In Britain, the poets who usually get mentioned in the media are those who were, even during their lifetime, the media darlings - Ted Hughes, Larkin, Betjeman.  The launch today of a new book by Professor Greene on the life of Edith Sitwell also shows how tough it is to be remembered or respected - Sitwell was a modernist eccentric and genius, but now is marginal.  I think of Joan Murray (who I recently anthologised in a Carcanet book), selected by WH Auden to win the Yale prize for young poets, still out of print after decades (I hope to help reverse this).

Murray may return to coterie interest, but won't ever reach a mass audience.  The poets who have any chance of breaking through to mass consciousness must do so, not only by sheer talent (but talented they need be) - but require, along with the aforementioned luck, a curious convergence of history, politics, and - marketing.  I feel it likely that almost all contemporary "small press" poets, myself included, will be unread except by academics and the lone penperson, in sixty years.  In 100 years - forget about it.  Only those poets published by (in the UK) Faber and Faber, and perhaps a few other larger presses, have much of a shot at eluding oblivion.  And, while being published by Faber is a huge advantage (see how FT Prince's readership declined immediately as he was dropped from their list) even Lynette Roberts saw four decades of neglect having been a Faber poet (again, she was dropped by Eliot though).

So - what do poets write for?  Themselves it must be.  98% of all British poets get almost no readership now - while they are alive, doing readings, bustling about - and can't get on bookshop shelves.  Imagine their fate when they are dead and gone.  For any poet who has half an eye on posterity, of being read and valued beyond the grave, this is dispiriting.  Ian Hamilton's book that deals with this subject is a much-read.

I don't think technology will improve things.  The truth is, few readers of poetry are educated enough, or dedicated enough, to go beyond the obvious few dozen canonical figures, the "big names".  I mention this, because there is a general assumption, rather sanguine, that press-marketing and position is not somehow connected to literary reputation and valuation - but how could it not be, and when was it not?  At least since the 1920s, where and when one appears, in whose pages, has been a strong determinant.  The in-crowd stays in, more or less.  Go back to the Mavericks anthology.  Which of them beat the Movement poets in audience shares, to put it mildly.  All this to say, The Beats are known today because Ginsberg got onto the cover of Time magazine.
2 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