Monday, June 20, 2005

More about miscegenation

The idea that poetry can mix genres and be both avant-garde and non-avant-garde at the same time is about due to take over. For far too long, we've lived with the usual binary oppositions of avant-garde good, mainstream bad; or vice-versa. Or rhyme bad, free verse good. Or that bunch of die-hard conservatives bad, this bunch of forward-thinking radicals good. Or vice-versa. We all like to spilt ourselves into these binary oppositions.

Tory vs Socialist, right vs left, Christian vs heathen, Catholic vs protestant, black vs white, etc etc etc. Civilised vs barbarian was one of the earliest, way back in the Roman empire. It's such a dumb game, and we've been playing it for centuries, and frankly it's got boring.

Don't get me wrong; I don't think we should all become some vast melting pot in which everything just becomes one bland morass of culture. I just think we should learn to appreciate each other more; like sampling different foods. A good rhyming poem is a good poem; a poem made of seemingly-random phrases can be a good poem too. A piece of prose can be a good poem too.

That's why I like the latest Staple magazine (Staple 62): aside from the fact that it has one of my poems in it, that is. I like the fact that there are mainstream poets in its Alternative Generation poets (Lynne Wycherley) and non-mainstream (Andrew Duncan and Helen MacDonald.) A lot of anthologies are very one thing or another; but then there's the Oxford Anthology of Twentieth Century British and Irish Poetry ed Keith Tuma, which puts Bob Cobbing next to Philip Larkin! It's a bit overserious at times, and some of its choices are a bit bizarre, but on the whole it's the best at getting the whole variety of English poetries in one book that there is at the moment.

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