October 08, 2009

Oh no! It’s National Poetry Day.

It’s that dismal day again. As Charles Bernstein noted “poets are symbolically dragged into the public square in order to be humiliated with the claim that their product has not achieved sufficient market penetration and must be revived by the Artificial Resuscitation Foundation (ARF) lest the art form collapse from its own incompetence, irrelevance, and as a result of the general disinterest among the broad masses ...”

“Our” theme this year is Heroes and Heroines. Ostensibly this resonates with the spirit of the time, daily stories of backs-to-the-wall heroism in the war, while at home according to the media, citizens need courage just to step out of the door in the face of yob violence. Similarly it is fairly obvious that Carol Ann Duffy should have been invited to be the poet in residence for this her first year as the Poet Laureate. However, there is a poetry politics subtext in the theme. The celebration of heroes and heroines recycles Official Verse Culture’s axiomatic narrative assumptions. The implication for this heroic day: the Poet achieves sufficient market penetration after all, aspiring to cultural relevance, to centrality in our increasing militarization, aspiring to Homerism, “the world is found to be meaningful, but not for and to itself; it is meaningful because perceiving it makes the poet special; the poet plunders the world for its perceptual, spiritual treasure and becomes worthy (and worth more) on that basis” (Lynn Hejinian).

Anyway, the on-going artistic crisis for the Hegemony of the Banal is no more evident than in this year’s TS Eliot Prize: ‘the most important poetry prize in the UK’ went to Jen Hadfield:

"I will meet you at Pity Me Wood. / I will meet you at Up-To-No-Good. / I will meet you at Stank, Shank and Stye. / I will meet you at Blowfly."

With their canon telomeres wearing so thin, National Poetry Day could really pass us by without recognition or comment – I’ll bet there are people reading this who didn’t know it was National Poetry Day – the mainstream reaching new levels of incompetence, irrelevance, and general disinterest, but there was something new in the call for involvement from the organisers this year.

“We need lots of pictures of poetry in public places - on buildings, written on pavements or walls (though naturally we don't condone vandalism, ahem.....), in local landmarks or sculptures. Send us the best pictures you can and we'll post them in our gallery closer to the day. I've attached examples to show you the sort of thing I mean - poems on buildings or street furniture, in graffiti or on t-shirts.” I find it interesting that the attempt to renew begins to turn to public art. Manchester has a number of examples of poems on the wall – all of them bad poems. And this is part of Banalists’ problem: they can not address the fundamental issue which is the inability to address the quality of the writing.

Anyway, here’s my contribution to the ‘festivities’, from 50 Heads:


0: Scuttering under a blue cloth within the inquorate grain
of memory, can rigidity be said? As hero as shaman.
Quotidian fantasy too direct competition for resources,
travelling that demands special kinds of travel insurance.
Fluents have no time to relax and straighten before
celebrated release in flexural waves. Its shattering energy.
A lantern to find an honest man? Some particles escape
through evaporation, also that microwater bacterially
small in the matrix of solidity. We must accept. Direction
of travel statements imposed bijective quietus, spending
patterns, election to representative bodies more serial
measured in responsibility quorum. Monument lions
drowned out formants immobilised in narrow happy-
clappy tunes. La, la, la for the rest complete transfusions
ensure none of the recipient’s blood is left at the scene;
though surgeon’s forgotten instruments as a verb for
human development starred ill I aspire as a critical advice
giver: the world looms the same everywhere: 1

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