Saturday, October 08, 2011

The waves come in, the waves go out

Literature sometimes feels like a tide. At one moment its lapping around your feet, another moment you're stuck in a thin sand, the water miles away. The waves come in, the waves come out. Literary reputation has something of that as well, and there's plenty of lapping at the shore at this time of year. This year's Booker is announced on the 18th October, so expect plenty of pieces in the papers trying to drum up interest in an other wise uninteresting year.

The Swedish Academy has given literary trainspotters another tick in the box, with the esteemed Swedish poet(the first for 40 years, so leave that controversy to rest), Tomas Tranströmer a respectfully applauded winner. Born in 1931, and still writing, despite being paralysed by a stroke, its not a name I'm familiar with. The poems sound interesting, if not what I usually read; Bloodaxe in the UK are the independent press that energetically publishes his work.

And Neil Astley from Bloodaxe gave an illuminating Q&A online at the Guardian for National Poetry Day (what do you mean, you missed it?). His answers are towards the end of the comments.

Its 20 years of the Forward Prize and there's a well-curated summary of that prize in the Guardian. It's consistent, at least, though reading the poems, and the commentaries one wouldn't think of British poetry as the broadest of churches. The natural world, the elegy, history...these are the pillars of contemporary British poetry (or at least its Forward winners.) Its a poetry of solidity, at its most solid in its immutable borderlands, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, to such an extent that you wonder what an English poet, without Celtic forbears or leanings, would actually sound like?

My own tide has been out for several weeks. Not written - or thought - a creative thing, and that makes me sad. But its a tide, remember, rather than a constant river. I perhaps need to remember what the sandbanks look like now and then.

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