Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dusty in Memphis

I've been thinking about what it is that made me gravitate towards American models for poetry rather than English ones. I saw a programme about Dusty Springfield on Sunday (South Bank Show - haven't seen one for ages) and thought it was an appropriate metaphor. English provincial girl who feels out of place in her own town and has a great singing voice; English provincial boy who feels cramped in his small town but has a way with words (or at least a desire to have a way with words.) English girl hears American soul singers and reaches out to something that is so different from everything she's known, it has to be better, falls in love with Motown/Stax. English boy escapes home town, discovers American poetry, realises it's freer and more open that anything he's so far read in English poetry and falls in love with New York City.

Well, it has the virtues of neatness, even if it was all a lot more complicated than that. My first readings of Ashbery, for instance, were exercises in incomprehension. But it has some truth in it. On the discussion board, Eva Salzmann says that she became fascinated with British poetry, maybe for similar reasons? Because, perhaps, it was different to what was familiar?

It's at least part of the picutre, I feel. There are lots of other reasons too, but the desire to escape from the stifling bonds of one's own upbringing is surely one of the reasons we become artists in the first place. We want to be "different", like the boys from Liverpool who grew up to be the Beatles by imitating their heroes in America.


I read again at the Trof last night. There was quite a lot of poetry; although I'm not sure I'd call Thick Richard poets. Pale imitators of John Cooper Clark who actually still use the word "punk" and think that taking dope is still cool. Then there was Angry Sam, a good performer from Brighton with a silly name. It sounds like a punk children's TV puppet: Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Angry Sam. But he sounded like he cared about words.

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