Sunday, June 19, 2005

Miscegenation Poetry

Poetry has its divisions like religion has its denominations and politics has its parties. Are you post-avant or School-of-Quietude, raw or cooked? Well, I was in South Africa recently and took a walk with a Quaker couple in J0'Burg to the Botanical Gardens. There, in the boating lake, were the usual ducks and geese - different species from home, but nevertheless. There were for instance, mallards and Egyptian ducks; and some ducks that were little bits of both. The same with the geese. That would have been illegal under apartheid, was the thought that went through my head. I did see mixed race couples in Jo'Burg too, which greatly delighted me. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's racial purity.

But it's lately made me think about these internecine wars in poetry. I know myself there's avant-garde poets who have always appealed to me; but there's plenty of non-avant-garde poets have interested me too. I met the poet and editor Todd Swift recently too, editor of nthposition magazine, who likes both George Szirtes and Charles Bernstein, and doesn't see why he shouldn't.

So my solution is to read both kinds of poetry, to let your poetry be affected by all kinds of influences, to sleep with the avant-garde and wake up with the School of Quietude if you want. Miscegenating poetry. I could, avant-garde style, write a manifesto about this. Or I could, School of Quietude style, just get on with it.

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