Sunday, January 15, 2006

Little Gidding

Tomorrow will see the announcement of this years T.S. Eliot prize, essentially poetry's Booker. In a very well-reasoned piece in the Observer, ex-Poetry Review editor Robert Potts rues a missed opportunity. Through quotation, as well as comment, he deconstructs the contemporary poetry trope of choice: "An emotional event is described through a particular object, anecdote or memory, which supplies some metaphorical glitter," even the well-reviewed Carol Ann Duffy collection - a likely winner (and she did!) - is pulled apart on this. I don't think I can better that as a condemnation of the sterility of much contemporary poetry. You may think that's fine, but repeated time and again, across a range of otherwise different poets, the effect palls quickly. But he also neatly puts in the "cronyism" of the tiny poetry scene as being in itself problematic. The books can't stand on their own; not where the judges are friends - lovers even - of the writers etc. etc. Twas ever thus, I guess, and its only a shame that Potts doesn't come up with any names, apart from Geoffrey Hill, who could replace the current lists. Even sterile poetry probably deserves its award ceremony - everything gets an award ceremony these days! - its only a shame that one bearing the illustrious Eliot's name, and generously funded by his widow, isn't itself more illustrious. In yesterday's Guardian the ever-wonderful Kurt Vonnegut provides some useful graphs of the plots of various novels. His Kafka alone is priceless.

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