Notebook (Horace)

July 7, 2014 § Leave a comment



Culturally poetry appears within, & seems to consist of, a trick perspective. The secluded, low-budget, discontinuous, small-scale work of the lyric poem (even Ted Hughes doesn’t require scaffolding, a foundry or assistants) is continually staged on a larger ‘public’ screen – readings, publication, launches, feverish diagnostic commentary on ‘the scene’ – in rooms themselves choked w/ the ideological smog of ‘intimacy’*. Wh/ may explain the appeal of “undiscovered” poets, who went fugitive from writing or for whom poetry was a means of going fugitive from themselves: Emily Dickinson, Nicholas Moore, Bunting (thankless silence giving way to Briggflatts), Rosemary Tonks (“living for the next four decades as the reclusive Mrs Lightband in an anonymous-looking old house tucked away behind Bournemouth seafront”); they form images of liberation or revenge against the literary establishment that the unhappy consciousness of those caught in the mid-reading chat profit from. (The gypsies, drifters & circus people that appear in modern painting throughout the 1900s & 1910s – think Augustus John, or Picasso’s Rose period – perform a similar function.) They posit a situation paralleled by the shifts of scale in Benjamin’s autobiographical writings: that the microcosmic, this private work w/ all the haphazardness of subjectivity, while remaining as closed as Leibniz’s monad, will incorporate the entire shadow of totality w/in itself.

*this topsy-turvy situation prevails under the long shadow of modernism: the oracular pretensions of Pound (the capes!), Eliot, Neruda, MacDiarmid, Cocteau had a self-consciously ironic cast to them, the bitter adoption of outmoded finery, in practising a now self-consciously minority art. Already, as the novel was only just eclipsing poetry, Tennyson & Browning’s poses had become curdled, allegorical; even Yeats’ Delphic blasts appear as if in scare-quotes. The situation now, w/ ‘silver poets’ propped up behind the RFH lectern is the renaturalisation of that ideological crust, now become twee.


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