It is that dreary time in the UK, when the too-small literary-journalistic community begins to select their "best books of the year". In terms of poetry reviewing in Britain, is there a William Logan? Logan, just once a poet, has for some time been something far worse and bigger - a reviewer of other poets. He's become monstrous, an outlier of Herod. His sort of reviewing doesn't happen much in the UK, at least not in the papers - the sort that is fearless, funny, reckless, and, even when wrong, accurate to its own tastes and vision. Canada has Carmine Starnino and Eric Ormsby. The UK could do with a Logan. His latest reviews of books elsewhere received with portentous reverence (including at Eyewear, see our salivating Carson review) is a masterclass in iconoclasm. Because the UK is too small and everyone meets at festivals and ceremonies, such reviewery might lead to punch ups, or at least upset apple carts at a too regular interval, but the absence of unvested interest in poetry can be striking, here. Of course, I note an increasing absence of intelligent middle class engagement in poetry in the UK, beyond the rim of the world where poets, students, and teachers live. I say "middle class" because I don't imagine the upper classes have much time for poetry these days; and at the moment it would be arrogant to expect much reading of it by the austerity-struck working poor.
No, the pretentious lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, MPs, and managers, who go see opera and theatre, and the latest arty Danish film - how much poetry do they respond to? Judging by my educated, literate and solvent neighbours, they read zilch. If it were possible to read less than no poetry, I suspect many people would. I can only say that this snobbish indifference to poetry might possibly arise from fatigue from all the constant blurbing and praising. With more UK Logans unclogging the reception, a sense of zesty wit might permeate discussions of poems, and trickle out to the wider reading public, the public that adores Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas but doesn't yet know the genius of Luke Kennard, Emily Berry or Jon Stone. Mantel is great, sure, but British poetry is as good as it was during the time of Donne, and about two thousand people in the UK know this, or can talk about it. About a million can explain why Breaking Bad should be on the telly here, and 10 million worship Mad Men. Popular culture, and the Rowling thing are vital for a society that wants to encompass wide tastes, which is why Eyewear talks about them too, but it is madness when poetry is left to the poets to kick about with like kids playing with a stone while the big boys play football; poetry relegated is a society gone to the dogs. We also need thoughtful and supportive criticism, but when the big names come out with (potential) rubbish, it's useful to have a town crier tell us. Logan is often a jerk, and too much Loganism would be as tedious as too little. But a little more would go a long way.