Friday, 7 October 2011
the poetry thing
two things come thumping into my inbox on national poetry day that remind me why i won't be putting anything up for national poetry day. aside from the fact i'm not fussed for the numbing compulsory nature of these 'days', a bit too contrived, a bit too generic. even burn's night, at least in scotland, seems too much of an excuse to wallow in nationalist sentiment and generally get shit faced.
so, one of the things i got was a poetry give away. the publisher doing this has done it before so i was pleased to see them doing it again. free stuff is free stuff after all! what bothered me more was that they were having a big sale of their other material all available at a mere £2.99. now that's a decent price to buy a bunch of books any day of the week but looking at it i wondered what exactly was happening with their margins when they are to all intents and purposes giving their product away. which leads to that old saw, that people like reading poetry far more than they like buying it. or perhaps i'm wrong and just missing how it's possible to get something printed and sold and still cover your costs for that price!
another thing that arrived was some announcement about something or other, couched in that language that can best be described as poetspeak, complimenting the poet on his or her 'admirable risk taking'. now maybe it's just me but i'm struggling to think of any activity that's more risk free than poetry. even reading such reviews it seems carries inherently more risk as your hold on the book might loosen as you drift into slumber and then hit you in the face. or perhaps there's a movement, of which i'm as yet unaware, of extreme poetry writing, that maybe i can find on the extreme channel, that famously obscure collection 'haiku written while doing a double back flip over a gnarly tabletop'. yes, i'd read that. or maybe there's an as yet unappreciated risk that one can become so absorbed in the poetry world that it's actually possible to absorb oneself. who knows? it could be true. i have an notion to do something like the bad sex prize for bad writing about poetry/literature. i think that could fly....?
talking of which today's the day after the welcome news that tomas transtromer has won the nobel prize for literature. now i kind of like transtromer but i wouldn't claim to be super familiar with his work, beyond an annoying desire to write his name as tomas transformer and evoking an image of the old poet turning into some of sort of mechanised killer robot laying waste and destruction in the streets of central stockholm. and maybe it's just me but i kind of like the idea that transtromer has managed to keep working in the face of really quite disabling ill health. it occurs to me - last time a writer with significant physical disability won a prize?
which is the sort of thinking you can only get from some of the critical response to transtromer's win, as if certain writers have entirely forgotten that any judging process is entirely subjective and will always leave at least some people a bit stunned (i still can't read elfriede jelinek but i'm not, and i'm sure she isn't, losing any sleep over it). this infighting and general cattiness (which really, is nothing compared to the recent poetry shenanigans) seems to cleave to a rather negative image of poetry types and oddly at cross purposes with an activity that seems to me to sublimely engaging and really rather pleasant. whether it's reading or writing it i really rather recommend it!
goodness me, a post about poetry. and here's me who wud neva...!!!! i must get myself a soothing cup of tea. and much while i'd like to claim it for me maybe i'll just set it as a poetry challenge for those who like that sort of thing. tomas transformer, alien giant robot, wins nobel. can you do anything with that? too risky?