Monday, February 27, 2012

Peter Riley's poetry notes

"This is the big public arena of poetry (actually quite small) and its message is that poetry is one happy thriving world. Art and commerce are united in this paradigm: what is most popular (within certain limits of respectability and caste) is clearly the highest quality, and what is rejected is what doesn’t sell because it’s weird and ‘nobody wants it’.
It is outwardly a very simple structure. In fact, of course, the popularity is largely created by the publicity, so that the value of the guidance offered is questionable, and when you look at the poetry elevated by these routines it turns out to be extremely varied in both nature and quality."

from Poetry beyond the cults and enclaves in the Fortnightly Review

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Hear America Singing

Great speech from President Obama, quoting Emily Dickinson ("I dwell in possibility") and Walt Whitman. Intelligent and heartfelt, with due recognition of the role of the Arts and Humanities in forging a nation's soul. (Compare & contrast with the UK.)

Al Pacino is there, as is Rita Dove (don't mention Helen Vendler), and many others.

Mr Ashbery is called around 15:28. Hoorah!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ashbery meets Obama

John Ashbery will collect his National Humanities Medal from President Obama at around 1.45 p.m. eastern time tomorrow (Monday 13 February).

That's about 6.45 p.m. in England, I think. There should be a live stream here, for fans of elected heads of state presenting modern poets with prizes.

The White House press release says: "he has changed how we read poetry and has influenced generations of poets".

Monday, February 6, 2012

Perloff on Niedecker

A great piece in the Times Literary Supplement by the great Marjorie Perloff on the poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-70).

Everyone interested in poetry should read Niedecker's The Granite Pail: The Selected Poems (I have an old second-hand edition).

In her poem Paean to Place ('I am the solitary plover') Niedecker quotes some lines from Robert Duncan's wonderful essay 'Towards an Open Universe':

We live by the urgent wave
of the verse

In fact, Duncan actually wrote:

In the very beginnings of life, in the source of our cadences, with the first pulse of the blood in the egg then, the changes of night and day must have been there. So that in the configuration of the living, hidden in the exchanging orders of the chromosome sequences from which we have our nature, the first nature, child of deep waters and of night and day, sleeping and waking, remains.

We are, all the many expressions of living matter, grandchildren of Gaia, Earth and Uranus, the Heavens. Late born, for the moon and ocean came before. The sea was our first mother and sun our father, so our sciences picture the chemistry of the living as beginning in the alembic of the primal sea quickened by rays of the sun and even, beyond, by radiations of the cosmos at large.

Tide-flow under the sun and moon of the sea, systole and diastole of the heart, these rhythms lie deep in our experience and when we let them take over our speech there is a monotonous rapture of persistent regular stresses and waves of lines breaking rhyme after rhyme. There have been poets for whom this rise and fall, the mothering swell and ebb, was all. Amoebic intelligences, dwelling in the memorial of tidal voice, they arouse in our awake minds a spell, so that we let our awareness go in the urgent wave of the verse.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Nazi king


WTF? Who in their right mind dresses as a Nazi?

Madonna's W.E. appears to rehash the idea that Edward VIII gave up the throne in 1936 for the woman he loved. But this is nonsense, as Anindya Bhattacharyya points out in the Socialist Worker:

The British establishment did not object to Edward and Wallis’s romantic entanglement. They objected to the consequences of their fascist political sympathies. 

For more on which, Bhattacharyya directs us to Paul Foot's 1988 review in the London Review of Books. Foot observes that:

In all the innumerable versions of the ‘Greatest Love Story of the Century’ it is assumed that the British Establishment, led by Stanley Baldwin and the Archbishop of Canterbury, could not stomach the idea of a monarch marrying a twice-divorced woman. The objections, it is said, were moral and religious. The truth is, however, that throughout the centuries archbishops and prime ministers have miraculously overcome their moral objections to royal idiosyncrasies in the bedchamber. The real objection to the liaison between the King and Mrs Simpson was that both were Nazi sympathisers.

For Prince Philip's Nazi connections see New British Empire.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The artist vandalising advertising with poetry


Nice piece in the Independent on Robert Montgomery, who covers over advertisements with his poetry -- a great improvement. View gallery here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stop Subsidising the House of Commons Restaurants and Bars


If, like me, you find it rather disgusting that food and drink in the bars and restaurants of Westminster are subsidized by the taxpayer, when everyone else is struggling to survive, you might like to sign this e-petition and forward the link to others.

The Taxpayers' subsidy of the House of Commons Restaurants should be terminated and all customers should personally pay the full market value of the food and drink consumed

Sadly, it has to reach 100,000 signatures before MPs will pay any attention.

Happy Birthday James Joyce

business, reading newspaper, smoking cigar, arranging tumblers on table, eating meals, pleasure, etcetera, etcetera, pleasure, eating meals, arranging tumblers on table, smoking cigar, reading newspaper, business; minerals, wash and brush up, local views, juju toffee, comic and birthday cards; those were the days and he was their hero
(Finnegans Wake)