Saturday, November 18, 2006

Roger & Out

We were going to go and see Roger Mcgough reading in Liverpool last night, but left it late to get tickets and unfortunately he'd sold out. He's got an autobiography out from Century, called "Said and Done". I've missed any reviews of it, yet he's one poet whose autobiography I'd certainly pay to hear read. I saw him ten years ago in Croydon reading poems - but in between anecdoting with the best of them. If I sometimes seem a bit dismissive of "funny" poets its probably because I've got so much time for McGough who is, of course, so much more than funny. His "Blazing Fruit" selected poems is a continually great read. I recently picked up a rewarding anthology, Penguin's "British Poetry Since 1945" which was published in 1970. When I was at college we studied the contemporary poetry scene through "the Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry." Reading Edward Lucie-Smith's 1970 summary, highlights how pernicious the Blake Morrison/Andrew Motion anthology from 1982 has been. I hated the book then, and hate it more now, for the way it restricted not just the number of poets in the "contemporary canon" but the range. In essense the Motion/Morrison book excludes those featured in Alvarez's "New Poetry" published in 1962 so has 20 years to play with - compared with the 25 years that Lucie-Smith has. It is not just the number of poets that is different but the range. The final chapter of the 1970 book "New Voices" finds room for Tom Raworth, Lee Harwood, Barry Macsweeney, Brian Patten, Adrian Henri and Roger McGough - all absent from the later book, onlly the 2 Irish writers, Heaney and Mahon making the cut. It seems now, more than ever, that Motion and Morrison's influence over the direction of English poetry, so codified in this book, has been nothing but disastrous, through both the exclusion of some of the poets listed above, but also through what followed. There's something of a private club feel to their book, that hasn't served us well since. It's notable that Morrison is most famous for a memoir, and that Motion's latest book is one as well. I think I'll be searching out Mcgough's instead.

No comments: