Monday, 26 January 2009

and in that gap

barack obama finally gets himself into the white house. yes it's a great day for african americans, of that there is no doubt but the speech? reminds me of those old british types who still think they've got an empire. it's the same old frontier talk, rising to the challenge and america leading the world again. sorry mr obama but despite the gushing nature of much of our media the rest of the world didn't elect you..

still, action on guantanamo right away can't be bad. and i'm pleased with the way he's looking at aid. so fingers crossed and here's hoping but i'm still reserving judgment for a while.

what has surprised me a bit is the tone of the response to elizabeth alexander's inauguration reading, esp on this side of the atlantic. last time we had poetry read when a prime minister was elected? yeah, thought not. and the same amount of criticism re yo yo ma and the recording? hmmm. no.

what did i think? i didn't think it was that bad as a poem, other than the length but hey, it's america and brevity is never going to be a strong suit. plus delivery? for a start look at who she is. an interesting reading by some academic? i think not. but again, as evidenced by her appearance on the colbert report, a game attitude, and again, last time a poet appeared on a comedy show in the uk? yeah, thought not. and, given the awfulness of some of the readings i've heard this year i'd like to see how other would've handled an audience of a million plus in addition to the rest of the world watching. nervous? i should think so.

depression about the state of the poetry world has negatively impacted the swiss lounge publishing effort this year but along with that, i've also been reading a fair bit of adam smith, who supplied me with the following gem. the hideous nature of poets and their 'art'? it was ever thus -

They are very apt to divide themselves into a sort of literary factions; each cabal being often avowedly, and almost always secretly, the mortal enemy of the reputation of every other, and employing all mean arts of intrigue and solicitation to preoccupy the public opinions in favour of the works of its own members, and against those of its enemies and rivals.

from The Theory of Moral Sentiments


Rachel Fox said...

I'm with you on this one. I'd never heard of her so looked a bit on-line and ended up at the Guardian poetry thing. Such bitchiness...quite unbelievable (and a lot of it was bitchy not critical...some people can't tell the difference...too many people in fact!). What I've seen on there and other poetry forum type places makes me keen to keep away from anything like many know-alls, so much nastiness and bitterness, the worst kind of club. Better to get on the bike and ride (or in my case pull on the boots and walk!).

The most criticism seemed to be for her reading style but there are lots of reasons for that (her academic status as you say, nerves, the no-doubt ridiculously big pa system, could she hear herself etc.). Obama and some of the other speakers have a lot of experience of that kind of huge public speaking but she, presumably, does not. Maybe they should have got an actor to read for her...and I agree a little more brevity might have helped...but still, overall...the criticism has been OTT. I can understand a little that some poets feel a chance was wasted...a chance for a huge world audience to hear a really great poem (well read) and fall in love with poetry. That didn't happen (not here anyway...who knows the reaction elsewhere). They should have got Lemn that man can stir a listener! But of course he's not American...and the bitchy types would have found plenty to moan about with him too!

Sorlil said...

"the rest of the world didn't elect you.." - my sentiments exactly.

welcome back!

Niamh B said...

And what about the puppy he promised to get the kids? No sign yet

swiss said...

a good point well made. i;m surprised the tabloids haven't picked it up. forget guantanamo, forget energy isolationism. no puppies?

what about the children!!!!!?