Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Geeks and Elites

I went twice last week to the Fab Cafe in Manchester, a place dedicated to cult TV and what it calls "independent" music. It made me think some rather naughty thoughts.

There I was, basically in a crowd of geeks, people who could tell you cast lists and continuity errors in Doctor Who or Star Wars, who could talk the hindleg off a donkey about Star Wars, and I wondered, are poets like this too? Except, of course, we're interested in "high culture", not the "low culture" of long-running TV series that are perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating of programmes.

Except - they do often deal in quite poetic themes about the nature of reality, of time, even of memory. There are often quite complex themes about the nature of what we call life - is a pan-dimensional cloud of glass "alive" in any way, for instance?

I used to read science fiction all the time, and now I rarely do. Nowadays, I read an enormous amount of poetry. Most poets like to put themselves as rather superior to science-fiction fans, especially the kind of fan that dresses up as a Klingon. Yet being passionate about our art is exactly what makes us poets. Fandom is, perhaps, rather secondhand; someone else has usually done the writing, unless you become one of the many who write their own stories as an adjunct to the franchise; even then you're just slotting into an already established format. Rather like neo-formalist poets, he suggests with a tongue wedged firmly in his cheek...

One thing that fans have in their favour is that nobody ever suggests that their interest in and love of a science-fiction series is ever called "elitist", unlike those of us who are interested in "high art." Whether that "high art" is contemporary visual art, classical music, opera, or poetry (especially of the difficult late-modernist variety), it's assumed that if you like something that only a minority like, it must be "elitist."

But it's really no more elitist than watching every episode of Blake's Seven 10 times. Or prefering Tom Baker to David Tennant. We may like to think of ourselves as being concerned with more important ideas to do with language, culture etc etc etc, but I often wonder if a good science fiction story isn't as much concerned with those as poetry is.

Of course, all this could just be a temporal shift anomaly and really we're still back in Kansas.

6 comments:

Snash said...

Call me cliched, but I reckon "1984" exemplifies concern with language and culture, despite being quasi-Sci-Fi. (Don't worry, I won't drone on about totalitarianism.)

Poetry broadens the spectrum of consciousness, through thought-provoking messages, and the shades of meaning induced by carefully placed syntax / vocabulary. Orwell's 'Newspeak' does the exact opposite, cutting language down to the bare bones.

Otherwise, you could argue that the (debatably) successful cultivation of Klingon shares the aforementioned poetic function, by delivering subtle tones of meaning inexpressible by standard English vocabulary. Much like the Sanskrit 'dharma'. (Suffering? Affliction? Discomfort? English is insufficient.)

Or perhaps, like many English students, I'm trying to find multitudes of meaning when there isn't any. :)

Background Artist said...

just go back again and read, every week, somewhere, anywhere, as long as it is very very regular, yr laughing.

Nowt wrong with tom baker, Jon Culshaw the mimic was the yr below me at St Bedes in Ormskirk and i remember everyone took the mick out of him, for being how he was, a young kid who was the class clown. But i didn't, i always said, eff em Cullie lad, go for it. That was coz i played Malvolio and so was a bigger star then he at that point in our careers Steve, and i have a particularly shamelful episode in which i shudder with now as i reflect as a mature mind away from the stupidity of one's younger days, and this involves Jon steven, and it was an icident in Preston i am not at liberty to discuss, because my contractual obligations with NBC CBC and ABC, forbid it i am afraid. but jolly grand fab cafe sounds, full of amazing geeks. oh ! steven how do you cope you poor thing, all that genius, and no one as clever to speak with.

well, you can speak with me dearie, as i have left Alan my husband and am having a bit of a second wind in the trade bars, and if you fancy a night out over here, the George is the place, full of interesting men who lurve poets, and i am sure we could meet a few chaps, and who knows, get a session and the craic open for the whole weekend. mmmm, lovein it.

gra agus siochain

pachot - is the sequence of word verification, chap to...?

Jane Holland said...

Ignore that man behind the curtain!

Should I admit this in public? I have watched some episodes of B7 considerably more than 10 times. I thought Ecclestone was fantastic as the Doctor - so dark and edgy! - but am perfectly happy with Tennant's interpretation too. Tom Baker was MY Doctor (i.e. when I was a child) but I've had no trouble adjusting to the new Who.

I don't know the cast lists and minor shooting details of each script of every sci-fi programme ever made - see my husband Steve for such minutiae - but I'm geeky enough to have fitted in well to the world of poetry, where knowing who's written what, when, and even why, is a vital part of the poet's networking skills.

Is poetry elitist? Only to those who never read it. To the rest of us it's part of the fabric of everyday life, like ... shopping at Tescos, or picking up the kids from school, or jumping into the Tardis for another forty-five minute adventure.

Background Artist said...

Is poetry elitist?

Well, only if there are one person executive body gatekeepers prosecuting a one person world-view that inhibits freedom of speech, that demands respect on the basis of a self created beau ideal no one but the person who thought up silly rules designed to stop ppl from communicating for the purpose of controlling what gets said, what appears on the page and for this i am with Bob, Bob Graves who reckoned Socrates is to blame for *intellectual homosexuality* as the trinity of thinkers on which the modwern English (state) poetry has artificially been raised in such a way that until very recently with the appearance of delightfully warm, breath takingly intelligent ppl like the freedom of speech lovers concerned only with exhorting us to speak in our natural own note/s -- appeared in print after winning, being picked by the very important mob, all this jazz of English poetry meant that unless one attended two colleges only 1% do, the 99% who do not and who would like to be a poet, were at a clear disadvantage, as to be a proper pukka chep or gel and speak in the right accent on the page, praise the right person, there can be only one you know, and now one person executive bodies appalled on our behalf, very very considerately NOT!!! naming and shaming offending transgressors at Poetry do's in the smoke after sorting out the panel at the start of a long lovely week of deciding what to reject, who to annoint and privilge with a feature on the page of rags, who is worthy of being judged acceptable, who is appllling and all this terribly important biz of the busy, interesting, wonderfully marvelous modern editor rebels really changing things for the good by making sure the kids know how appallingly they recited, no names of course though the offenders will know who they are, put a bit of blinkin fear in em, make sure they now the one person executives are NOT HAPPY!!!!!

So is poetry elitist? gawd yah, so what can we do? Well rule number one

lead by example, do not piss on anothers dream, especially a young person, opur future as slagging from the off leads to stasis, no chat, zero jiggy and a general feeling of worthlessness as they attired in a shiny armour of moi, sneer silently with emoticons of a happy smile that is but a bollix visual lie designed to soften the blow of being labelled a reject piece of wiorthless ungradable shite, effectively. Not good for a poet's moral at all, and i know Steve (and thanks for being a good sport and publishing me)

..as i got an A in ym mock O'Level, as i played Malvolio at 14 and was star of the show and English language and lit was my fave subject and in the real exam got a U - ungradable which is six

A B C D E F - U

total reverse, what happened, was i really crap or as it took 24 yrs to suss out, was some horrid adult git down on a kid happy and talented, penalised for having a very precocious talent? nah, i was crap mate, i must ghave been innit?

and this exam, i needed three O'levels to study the 2 A levels minimum needed to get on a drama degree and i forgot to attend my History exam and had four nailed on, history, english lit, maths and english and ended up with only two, so could only do one A level whilst i retook o levels to bump the number up and then two more years, a crucial yr at that age as at 16 we're gonna live forever innit Steve pal?

So i do a yr and leave thinking, sod it, i am a dreamer and clearly great, and if i go get a job in a covent garden burger restaraunt, doin the apple pies and ice cream, surely Spielberg will come in, see the talented star actor and whisk me to holly wood, which didn't happen, and it took 20 years floundering, every yr a little thicker, until i was the bioggest joke i knew, written off, a person who, well, yer know, it never happened, and at that point, in a corner i di the only thing left, decided to try and reinvent myself as not a bum, but a writer, wondering if it was the final con, and guess what, it effin was mate, i am a total fabricator, love and peace

mooer, o love you, please let me be yr bessie mate and let us have a larf as i have the keys to the bog and can say owt i want and life's a game, poetry, Amergin, that text, what do you think? i can say you are crap ro the best as my road's unique, a full blooded Fitzgerald, earls of desmojnd once, the last of our mob got his head spiked by liz one, and JFK, he's the same as me, brehons mate, cicvil poet-lwyers who need not others to speak for us, stand on out own tweo feet, sold my poems first from a doorway rolled up and made 2000% profit on each one flogged, Love poems, that's all i do now mooer, so love on and peace to you grains containing galaxies of void and light, lead me to the music of what happens, please be good, Ogma. what do you reckon, what are you wearing, a mask or the note,

happe - is the sequence of letters in the word verificvation
happy daze

gra agus siochain

Tuebrook Tart said...

I wonder what the poetic equivalent of dressing as a Klingon would be? I have a theory that the most elitist poet-geeks dress up in poetry clothes. You can spot them a mile away with their edgy glasses, carefully placed scarves, eco shoes, uncertain moustaches...and that's just the women!

Bournemouth Runner said...

Only just read this Steven. But my answer would probably be "yes", poetry's a cult in the sense that Blakes 7 or whatever is a cult. Sci fi and fantasy hasn't, of course, really been a cult since Star Wars, so successful is it; and I've probably got lines of "Hitchhikers" that I use in the same way that my grandfather would have used Yeats or Tennyson. As always, we need to be sure what it is we're talking about... Dr. Who or China Mieville; Lord of the Rings or Jerry Cornelius; Seamus Heaney or C.D. Wright.