Monday, November 14, 2005

I sort of half-watched the second Lord of the Rings film on television yesterday. I read that book years ago, about three times, which is a lot less than some do. I can't say I'd read it again, though the big Battle of Helm's Deep was pretty good and I liked their portrayal of Golum/Smeagol. The ents though did look vaguely ridiculous. It's all good spectacle and straightforward storytelling; but nowhere near a great film. I know that there are fanatics who can't get enough of things like that; but however much I used to like fantasy, now I just find its addiction to straight story-telling boring. And all those elves...

Ah well, back to poetry. I've been thinking again about the much-vaunted category of the "authentic" and what it means. Is there such a thing, really, especially in this day and age when everybody from poets to pop-stars are putting on masks? I watched the BBC's programme about sex and rock-and-roll, and it was interesting to see the way in which male pop-stars either rooted around in the fancy-dress box (Bowie) or went all macho-authentic (Led Zeppellin.) Of the two, I've always prefered the former; I actually find it more true to (my) life than the thrusting cock-rock of blokes in jeans with guitars.

I caught a newspaper headline that said that men always wanted to be cavemen even if they pretended to be "new sensitive men". Well, that's not true of me. I don't even like jeans. I don't like the idea that I'm supposed to go to the pub, like football, get drunk and read the Sun if I read anything at all. I am (stand up and say it!) a sissy, and I'm proud of that fact. I read books, I read poetry on buses, I write poetry and go to jazz concerts and art galleries, prefer romantic comedies to action films and postmodernism to straight narrative. I drink wine not beer. I'd rather engage in a nice intellectual conversation than watch reality TV or Pop Bile. And I like intelligent women. No really, I do. Even if you're more inteligent than me.

And I like leather jackets. Hey, I contradict myself, so I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.

3 comments:

IRISH POETS said...

Hip hip for the tipping of masks. I know exactly what you mean.

As for the authenticity within poesie, I think if a poet starts with the most obvious compositional methods, and works there way in from this start point then they can't go far wrong.

Stephen Fry has just released a book on poetry, and I listrened to an interview with him on Simon Toon's Slam Idol podcast site. Fry knows his stuff and would be an anathema to many in, say the Langpo groups; but when you look at some of the compositional methods of the avant garde, they are still working within a well defined system of rules, which is just another name for "meter."

I read an earlier post where you said about that exercise where you can't use the letter "e", which is an avant garde method, but, in my mind, no different a constraint than having to come up with an assonantal ryhme every 8, 10 16, or 20 syllables.

It's just a different rule that's all. So when the new formalists get all moany about the Langpo and the langpo whine about how meter is defunct, both sides are showing an inability to grasp the fundamental nature of their professed art, namely that it doesn't matter what the form is, what's important is the quality or the power to engage a reader.

By embracing all form the poet cannot fail, as s/he will not be restricted and can engage with all the schools and groupings. Plus, lets face it, much of the history of english language poetry is coloured by the spats and scraps of heavyweight A giving out to heavyweight B about why they or their work are inferior, and at the end of the day, it's all just blather, in the sense of words on the page.

I think that one of the most important qualities that mark out a good poet, is what Kavanagh called their "humorosity" or sense of fun and not taking themselves too seriously. Rita Ann Higgins is a great example of this, as is Dennis O'Driscoll, but the crop of young and thrusting urban poets scranbling about the world today, are all concerned with making a name for themselves, but very few of them have metrical ability. And unsurprisingly, those who don't have this skill, come up with all sorts of windy argumants about why there is no need for them to do so. As if the world has moderned to such a degree that traditional methods can be completely dispensed with.

By acquiring metrical skill, a poet has a great head start on his or her contemporaries, as they are in a minority.

So it is hardly surprising that the question of authenticity is so pressing, as in my mind, we have a load of people running about calling themselves poet, but few who have self confirmed as poet and understand their calling. So what you have in effect is a company of actors adopting personas and roles, each one trying to give out a more poety vibe than the next.

Obviously this view is half tongue in cheek, but is expressed to give you the basic idea.

So what can we do? Well I think that the best way to arrive at self confirmation is to surround yourself with like minded people who are all in the same boat. I cut my teeth through 4 years of open mic, working from the bottom up, for the last 18 months in Dublin, and now there is a solid group of us, who have all been on the same journey, week in week out. And the levels of belief are sky high, becase we have created our own scene and become very good readers and performers through the sheer amount of times we have read and performed.

We know we are an exciting and vibrant grouping, and most importantly, it is all based on positivity and supporting one another.

The feeling of authenticity with us is real, because we have earned our right to it, but I have met plenty of poets who see their own confirmation coming through others' A publisher agreeing to publish a book of their work, as though one person's opinion on them means they are a poet. The danger with this is that a young poet gets published, never reads too much live and wanders around thinking they are the real deal.

More later, the bells just gone for the next therapy session here in the poetry rehabilitation class I am paying 50 euro a day for.

Only joking.

Love

Caoimhghin

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