Eyewear blog today surveys the world of British poetry, and compile a list of the twenty (20) most "powerful" individuals in "British poetry". Both terms are obviously contentious, and no apology can be made for not parsing them endlessly here. Critical work requires some jargon. Anyway, we know what British poetry is, mainly - it is poetry published in Britain, or written by British poets, or both, or how those two sets overlap. This list notes those figures who most potently shape what contemporary British poetry is - materially, ideologically, editorially, critically, and literally (in the act of creating it). Notably, there are few academics or critics-only on this list, because British poetry has few extremely well-known and powerful poetry critics or scholars able to shape the canon, or cultural reception of poetry in these isles. We have no Helen Vendler or Marjorie Perloff, to be exact.
We have no Harold Bloom. A. Alvarez no longer weighs in, and few others have his former heft. Those on this list come closest to that sort of power to decide what poems, poets, poetry books, and poetics, will be published, read, well-reviewed, taught, and prized. And, it must be noted, we need to problematise the idea of agency here, because even these figures, vital as they are, and sometimes controversial, are hardly omnipotent. Nor do they comprise some sort of "establishment" - there is not one British poetry establishment, anyway, but three or four, which overlap. Nor are these figures necessarily to be celebrated, per se: this isn't a list that says this is good, or right - just, this is as it is.
There may be a few names left off this list, and I have left several respected friends and colleagues off, who are very influential, important and should be more influential, but no argument can be easily made to remove any that are here - there is a brute facticity to these choices. These are names to conjure with, and they are, for the most part, famous names. They are mostly the names of professors, laureates, editors, and award-winners. The British (or English, at any rate) are often discomfited by the idea of anything as inelegant as use of power - but cultural power is the only power that poets are likely ever to have or exercise, and to deny it exists leads to a state of dis-empowerment for many. The hope is, by creating such a list, power can be explored and utilised for the maximum cultural good, in future.
I have not listed those with the economic power to fund or defund, however. No one here is a bean counter or politician.
The list is in alphabetical order.
CAROL ANN DUFFY
TRUMP IS PART OF A HISTORY OF WHITE MALE RAGE Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or al...
I WILL VOTE FOR TRUMP, DAMMIT According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile ...
Ruth Taylor has died, February 18, 2006. She was a friend of mine, and one of the best poets of her generation. I fondly recall reading an...
HE BROUGHT POST-WAR AMERICAN POETRY TO BRITAIN IN A VITAL WAY British poet of genius and cultural significance, Tom Raworth has died a...
MERLIN WAS THE FUTURE, ONCE... Eyewear, The Blog , usually enjoys compiling end of the year lists. 2016 , now arguably the punch l...
Announcing the Shortlist for the 2016 Sexton Prize September 13, 2016 / By Kelly Davio Eyewear Publishing i...
Eliza Stefanidi (pictured) was born in Liverpool in 1980 and currently lives in Athens, after studying and writing in London. She is Bri...
A TERRIBLE LOSS I have been leaving annual reports here since the first year of posts in 2005. I can't recall a stranger, more stron...
THIS MAN WAS A PREMATURE BREXITEER Britain - long admired as the home of parliamentary democracy, has a history of great struggle with ...
British poet Isabel Galleymore , pictured, won the anniversary competition for the best poem involving eyes, vision or eyewear in a poem... ...