Monday, June 05, 2006

The Poetry of Saying

I have just received a copy of The North, a poetry magazine published in the UK. It contains a review by Cliff Yates of a book called "The Poetry of Saying: British Poetry and its Discontents, 1950-2000" published by Liverpool University Press. The book discusses the kind of 'underground' or alternative poetry which I mentioned in my previous blog about Joe Ross' book "EQUATIONS=equals". Yates quotes author Robert Sheppard's remark about Tom Raworth:

The poems cohere more by a reading of their formal means than by attempting to chart the semantics of a supposed context, even as readers are drawn into dialogue. The discourses are powerfully questioned and defamiliarized; indeed, the poems may never read the same way twice... They are both empty and full. They turn content into form and turn form into content that is read... they do not have designs on us. We must make designs with them.

It is the last sentence I wanted to draw attention to. This kind of poetry makes great demands on the reader and the poems "may never read the same way twice'. This is because each reader brings their own experience, perhaps of only a few moments earlier, to the interpretation of the poem. The poems contain no 'closure'. They remain open to interpretation.

5 comments:

Clare said...

I've got a book of poetry by Cliff Yates - he came to the Chester Literature Festival a few years ago - small world, huh?

It strikes me that this last sentence ' We must make designs with them' which I love, by the way, is perhaps what distinguishes some literary fiction from popular fiction. The reader is expected to interact and to do some work too - sometimes the book is closed and the reader doesn't know exactly what has happened - at least it is not spelt out - so the reader has to do a little thinking too.

Dick said...

Tom Raworth has always been seen by the mainstream as something of a lone operator here. Whilst the Black Mountain/Beats had a powerful influence in the UK during that curious 'bubbling-under' time in the late '50s/early '60s, there was no real overlap between the 'alternative' poets & the establishment writers. The associations made were much more with visual artists, jazz musicians & the American Grove Press/New Directions/City Lights poets. Such is the innate conservatism of the English poetry scene (with distinct local exceptions).

Which may well be what 'The Poetry of Saying' states, so I'll stop right there & order it on Amazon!

Lesley said...

Hey, where did the American memories post disappear to? I enjoyed it.

Jonathan said...

Thank you for your comments.

Clare - Yes, I have a copy of Cliff Yates' book called 'Henry's Clock' as well. I think he is a fine writer. And yes, the literary world is pretty small really. Although I read today that 50,000 novelists and poets (presumably many of them budding) have slept in Shakespeare's bookshop in Paris over the last fifty years - so writers are not so thin on the ground as one might imagine.

Dick - As you say, the alternative and the establishment writers are as chalk and cheese, although I would like to think there might be some room for bringing elements of the alternative writers' work into the mainstream. Certainly, having been brought into contact with this type of work by my move to Paris, ignoring it is no longer an option. The only problem with 'The Poetry of Saying' is its price. £50 to you squire...

And for you Lesley, I will put my American memory back...

Edmund Hardy said...

I just conducted a fairly long interview with Sheppard about The Poetry of Saying among other things, a post which might be of direct interest here! (Hence, excuse my dropping in and linking).