The Poetry Seen
Written in November 2015, this ad hoc manifesto was posted as a comment on Peter Riley's Fortnightly Review piece (a set of four book reviews) on Poets, Angry.
It seems to me that in these reviews poetry - a substance that changes through time - is itself the entity; and from this substance each poet’s poems are seen to materialise. It puts poetry above the poets, who are there to serve the entity. It reverses the usual perspective, making the whole more important than the part.
Given this position, and whilst gazing up at the poems, one can easily dispense with fashion and ideology (and its discipline officers) and allow Content some dignity and Style a less self-conscious form of freedom. It means no-one need be burdened by terms such as ‘radical’ or ‘innovative’ (and all the vanities associated with those), nor by their mirrored images/echoes from the imagined other side. And it means that one need not have to assume that not conforming to the nonsense those terms (or their opposites) imply also means being ignored.
As to the poetry scene’s threadbare carpet, one might ask how much more ‘mainstream’ do we need ‘innovative’ to become before the pretended partial or absolute dichotomy disappears. Without the faux intellectualism of such categories the choice then could be reduced to the more honest but less impressive 'cool' (that's me and mine, obviously) and 'uncool' (no comment). At that point success will depend upon the uncertainties of your social provenance (and the what's in and what's out of that, and luck) and how good you look.
There may be some for whom this kind dichotomy is a functional object of religious faith; if so, to them, its image, with all its vanities, will endure. But the view presented in these reviews (which I am taking the liberty of making something other of) does, I think, place institutions (with their brands and market share and how they are passionately promoted by eager to conform ‘non-conformists’, career path radicals, self-basting turkeys, etc.) outside the realm of poetry and firmly in that of rhetoric (where those who subscribe are chained by the ears).
Academics can collect their corporate compliance points, etc. it need trouble no-one else. 'Arts administrators' can continue to rig the market as best they can to the benefit of those with whom they like to lunch (and, subsequently, having confirmed the loveliness of each other, form yet another creative hub and disappear up it together).
Meanwhile, those less chained and less eager to please/be pleased can get a very other map from this more dignified perspective (i.e. that suggested above). And those of that ilk who write poems will find their position to be self-evident - written in the stars, one might say, or naturally or even socially gifted - and not something to be purchased, appropriated or rented.
And thus the entity remains a commons, single and unified, entire and autonomous, with no value added and none removed.