I keep sneaking the odd look at JH Prynne, and wondering why I don't find him in the least bit conducive. I'm reasonably open to a lot of modernist and post-modernist poetry; but I can't warm to his poetry. Maybe if I have a really good go at, give him space, etc etc... But, while I sometimes find bits and pieces uncannily beautiful, I'm not sure I really want to engage at a really deep level with him.
Which is probably terrible; how can I just dismiss him like that? I can read, and love, Tom Raworth's equally difficult poetry. I love the work of Geraldine Monk, and a lot of other so-called post-avants. If anything I prefer to read the post-avants or poets influenced by them to poets of the School of Quietude. I'm probably not thinking hard enough for Prynne. Well, so be it.
I read a comment recently about poets who just write lots of poetry and never sit down and write criticism and reviews and such. It was a remark made by someone form the Philly Free School blog. They were saying it's not a good thing; except I know a lot of people who are like that. They don't write reviews and they don't write critique, sometimes because they aren't confident of their own views, sometimes because they don't want to be unduly influenced by someone else.
The second objection can be easily dealt with. Writers should be unduly influenced. They should be obsessed by poetry - maybe not to the extent that Ron Silliman is, recieving as he does hundreds of books a year - and they should be widely read and interested in things outside of their own artform too. Whether this be the news, or visual art, or music, or philosophy, or the language of conversation, there should be things going on in their heads beyond the details of their personal lives.
Louis MacNeice said something to that effect when he said that poets should be readers of newspapers. They don't have to be drily intellectual, or to be experts in this or that, just interested. Open to influence. Open, in fact, to the world. Otherwise, what are you going to write about except yourself? And after a while, that just gets boring. In fact, you get bored with yourself.
I've got sidetracked from Prynne, I guess. Which is what happens when I read him, so that's OK.