Monday, July 14, 2014

Forward thinking

The Forward Prize for best poetry collection-- one of Britain's most prestigious poetry prizes--wasn’t given out this year, and the judge, Jeremy Paxman, made some comments somewhat disparaging of current poets, and suggesting that they are failing the reading public. “It seems to me very often that poets now seem to be talking to other poets, and that is not talking to people as a whole.”

Over at the Daily Beast, Mandy Kahn takes him on. Are poets failing the audience?  Are the audiences failing the poets?  And, further, do poets have a responsibility to judge marketplace, or is a poet's job only "to find their own voice and to speak their truth"?
If this is a person’s project, he will know it. Each poet needs only learn to hear his own voice, and hone it, and present it. The thing that feels universal—that hits a popular chord—may be the sort of work that Paxman likely imagines it would be, the voice of a Yeats, ringing with music, one that feels solid and sure and wise—but perhaps for this generation, a generation of people whose lives are disjointed, often distracted, spent largely on screens, that voice will be something else: something broken, maybe, something quiet and disjointed.
She continues:
The bigger question is—or could have been—how do we keep morale up among those whose job it is to make something for a marketplace that seems not to exist? But that hasn’t proven to be a problem. Writing poetry is so necessary to some people—and I count myself among them—that they need perceive no water in the pool before diving in. You dive knowing the pool may never fill, or may, while you’re in the air.

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau