“Oulipians are into literary bondage. Their fetish is predicated on the notion that writing is always constrained by something, be it simply time or language itself. The solution, in their view, is not to try, quixotically, to abolish constraints, but to acknowledge their presence, and embrace them proactively.”
Andrew Gallix, writing in The Guardian.
“Masterly on its own terms, Occasionals is the kind of book that should appear on prize shortlists – but all too rarely does.”
Carrie Etter reviews Carol Watts’ Occasionals in The Guardian. More about the book, including how to buy it, can be found on the Reality Street site.
“Over the past 40 years or so, British poets have been remaking the pastoral. It has been a violent business. What Raymond Williams once severely called the old “enamelled world” of pastoral poetry has been worked over, its certainties cracked and shattered. Long gone are those shepherds and shepherdesses idly enacting class hierarchies. Toxins have seeped into Arcadia; “nature” is a mess of our own manufacture. Out of the static conservatisms of an ancient form has come a series of countervailing modes: the anti-pastoral, the counter-pastoral, the radical pastoral, the post-pastoral.”
The Ground Aslant, a new Shearsman anthology edited by Other Room reader Harriet Tarlo and featuring Other Room readers Zoë Skoulding and Carol Watts, reviewed in The Guardian, here.
“The irony is that The Guardian reading chattering classes – the left-liberals whose tender sensibilities determine the mainstream poetry scene – would rather die than be seen as insular or parochial. But any claims to be “progressive” are certainly laughable when assessed through their literature.”
A counterblast to Blake Morrison from Matt Dalby:
“Not only are we not really here, it seems we were never here. I would have posted this sooner if I’d got round to reading the weekend Guardian before now. In a review on Saturday Blake Morrison reviewed Fiona Sampson’s A Century of Poetry Review.
Now given that things were fairly eventful round there in the 70’s you’d think there might be plenty of opportunity to mention the British Poetry Revival, Bob Cobbing and so on. Apparently not. The closest he comes are the following:
Controversy also surrounded Eric Mottram in the 1970s, with his radical Anglo-American poetics. Which comes as an aside in a discussion of Muriel Spark’s editorship, and
Several editors of the Poetry Review, including Mottram and later Peter Forbes, strenuously avoided little-Englandism, and there’s a reasonable showing of Americans and Europeans here, including Brodsky, Ginsberg, Ashbery and Primo Levi.
And that’s your lot. Maybe this is reflective of the contents of the book, I can’t find a list of contents and don’t propose buying a copy to find out.”
More Matt Dalby here.
So it turns out that not only is all innovative poetic activity in Manchester confined to the universities (see here), but those universities aren’t even in Manchester (see here). And it also turns out that we should be giving poetry back to the people. In time for Christmas, perhaps.
Whilst this article in The Guardian has some good points, it is a cursory glance at the Manchester ‘scene’ from a restricted view seat. The utilisation of the same handful of well-worn reference points is to be expected but remains disappointing. Partial pictures such as this are fine if acknowledged as such, but when presented in a way which suggests completness give a distorted perspective. It’s like talking about Manchester when you’ve never left the Arndale Centre.