Thanx 4 the add!! Quoof is da bomb!

COME ON PEOPLE!

Only 717 views and 16 friends when I dropped by this afternoon.

It’s the world’s greatest living poet (now official) and also Nigel Smith! Yet they’re way less popular than The Connells or Hegel or Gary Numan.

It’s as though you’re not taking it seriously!

I’m going to drop by again next week and I want to see a lot more friends and a lot of noise in the comments section. Here is the picture I would post were I willing to give NewsInt the run of my social and cultural life:

I’m sure you can find your own.

(By the way, despite Muldoon’s strength as a poet, I cannot conceive of his contributing to a song that could touch the singular and mysterious melancholy of ’74-75′ by The Connells.)

(Not quite worked-out joke: something about Nigel Smith supporting either the Levellers or the New Model Army)

Next Week, Watch as I explain how we ought not get too agitated about Yeats’s whole blueshirt thing

Over here, Steve finds Tom ‘Chopper’ Paulin‘s attack on Raine’s biography of Eliot to be L-A-M-E. I’d add that I thought it was pretty cheap, getting Paulin to review: you know exactly what he’s going to write. A really clumsy and cynical commission, frankly.

On the wrongs/rights of it, I just feel an overwhelming sense of tiredness. We’ve been through this so many times before. Eliot is an inescapably great poet, but wasn’t keen on Jews: it’s not just the ‘jew/Jew’ thing in ‘Gerontion’, but also ‘Burbank with a Baedeker’ and ‘Sweeney Among the Nightingales’ and the ‘Dirge’ excised from The Waste Land, and the passage on ‘free-thinking Jews’ in After Strange Gods, plus a few more minor things. Put them all together, and any defence tends to a rococo confection of exceptions and forced readings.

I don’t think he was practically or actively anti-semitic. I have no doubt he personally liked, admired and helped various Jews (unlike say, Pound); the problems are more to do with the engine-room of the poetry – the pursuit of a monarchic Anglo-Catholic Seventeenth-Century aesthetic and perpetual concern with tradition do not lead to a happy-go-lucky joy-to-all-the-heathens sensibility.

(I do find that Seventeenth-Century aesthetic appealing in some ways. I spend a fair bit of time in the period, and this case of Eliot’s inevitably leads to self-examination: if I admire Donne or Dryden’s line, am I in thrall to something constructed out of a certain sort of exclusion, a christian-cum-Catholic version of verbal beauty that has ugly matter at its heart? I’m quite resistant to this mode in contemporary work – in theory, Geoffrey Hill should rock my world, but he leaves me appreciative-to-cold.)

I don’t think it damages the earlier poetry hugely: that’s made of clashing tones, short circuits of thought, sonic and allusive texture conflict, etc, etc, so even that vicious aspect of the personal sensibility is another layer – the verbal construct is the more complex for Eliot’s problems.

The later poetry, though, after his conversion, I find difficult to stomach. I don’t think there’s enough kicking against the Christianity.

Incidentally, I’ve made clear my position on Paulin’s political readings before now; Eliot’s an interesting case, though, because I don’t think the questions are settled, and he set the tone for so much of the last century’s criticism.

Of this, there is no end. I intended a quick post, then I thought it would be cowardly not to say a little on the central trouble; so instead I’ve just dumped out a sequence of statements that need a lot of unpacking. Go me.

They’d need someone classy to give the award. Liz Hurley, maybe, or Nigella.

I was a little irritated at the coverage of the Costa Prize for Poetry, as it appeared to be predicated on the assumption that all poetry prizes are by right to be won by Seamus Heaney, and that something broken has happened when some guy wins it for a long poem (suspicious!) that has to do with Nigeria (suspiciouser!) and published by ‘a small Welsh press’ (suspiciousest!).

It seemed proper to explain that they don’t just hand out to poetry prizes to Heaney by default; that they don’t engrave the cup the moment he publishes; it’s not like the panel go to the Cross Keys, have a chat about Celeb BB over a pint, then scribble Heaney’s name on a bit paper and stuff it in the golden envelope.(*)

Anyway, congratulations to Seamus Heaney on winning the TS Eliot prize for poetry.

(* I don’t really know how any of this works. Are there trophies? Are there envelopes? Do they get Jimmy Carr to host the ceremony? If the answer to all these questions is ‘no’, then I think I’ve cracked the longstanding puzzle of poetry’s declining popularity.)

Court & Social, 15th January 2007

Tomorrow, which is today, or possibly yesterday, or maybe even a bit ago, because I can’t dictate when you read this (and isn’t that the beauty of the internet? Isn’t that what we all believe in? What we’re all fighting for?), there’s a new spoken word night starting at Indo. 3am have organised; Lee Rourke, Adelle Stripe and Heidi James are all in action.

So just to make it clear, it’s taking place on Monday the 15th. That’s Monday, the 15th. I can see how you’d be confused by all that tomorrow-or-today business, especially as I’m a bit confused as to whether I should put the posting date or the actual date of the event in the title of the post. I went with the latter, as you can probably see.

I will be sitting somewhere towards the back, I should think. I’m quite shy.

Poetrymeanings is available

I have one last thing to say about the all-join-up-for blogs-v-papers fuss from last year.

Having read Sutherland’s original article, I see that he was more focussed on Amazon reviewers, and, while I can see his point, I think he’s still wrong. I don’t really want to get into this but, essentially, the potential buyer knows how to assess Amazon reviews, which means Sutherland’s misunderstood the topology of this network – that’s to say the relationship between buyer, multiple reviewers and book – by underestimating the agency of the reader. OMG I sound dead clever lol.

Anyway, I suddenly had a great deal of sympathy for Sutherland’s point of view while promenading the web the other day, and realised if he’d just written the following sentence, it would have been almost impossible to disagree with him: “I’m simply worried that literary criticism will be reduced to the level of analysis and discussion found at songmeanings.net.”

I’ll Give Last Year a B-. Next!

I thought about putting together some end-of-year thoughts, but really I don’t have too much to say about 2006. I didn’t read too much contemporary fiction or, in fact, contemporary anything – I taught myself Attic Greek instead. It seemed a fun and practical thing to do. Against The Day was inevitably the this-year-book I liked the most.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be grave reflections on the past year, but a cheerful hello to a new one, in which many fine people fall out of copyright.

I feel especially pleased to welcome A.E. Housman, G.K. Chesterton, M.R. James and J.R. Kipling to the free world. (That last one’s more usually known as Rudyard, but I’m sure you appreciate that the important thing here is making sure they all have two initials. It’s tidy. Funny thing about Kipling – can’t stand his poetry, but think he might be the best old-school short-story writer there is. And I’m suddenly awfully worried that this paragraph makes me sound like a shrapnel-lobotomised retired major who writes in to the Telegraph deploring the pass the literary world has come to when an alumnus of Jesus deems it necessary to evince an unlikely admiration for Association Football and Negro Popular Music in order to make a name for himself (Though the case of Hornby may go to show that despite producing a number of honourable and brave men – with many of whom I have had the pleasure of serving – the Grammar School is not a healthy institution for the sons of hard-working Britons. Also, please note the split infinitive on page 3 in column 2, paragraph 2 of your story ‘Return of the English Rose’. This is not America. Yours, etc.) So I should make the Kipling-love a little hipper-looking by saying that I can’t see how, if you like Borges, you wouldn’t like the Kipling of ‘Electricity’, ‘The Finest Story in the World’ and so on.)

If I try to picture it, I see them walking out of the gates of a prison, bundles under their arms, looking around, lighting cigarettes and wondering what to do with their freedom.

No. Pipes. They’re actually lighting pipes.