Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Prog 2 (Tales from Typological Oceans)

To compare innovative poetry to prog rock is, perhaps, rather cheeky, and there's not that much in common really, apart from the fact that they both started in the late '60's. Prog bands that "made it" (Yes, Genesis & Pink Floyd basically) ended up as bloated shadows of their former selves and were not all that experimental really, except in their early days.

But the urge to step away from the norm, to explore new territories, new sound or wordscapes, is the continuity between all these movements. And I don't see much of it happening at the moment, except in isolated pockets. Tony Trehy's innovative Text Festival, groupings such as Oppened and The Other Room, aside, there's the constant need to try and sell books. And people do like to be able to hum the tune...

But there's always a tension between writer & audience. The writer wants to reach for some kind of (even if only temporary, provisional and fractured) vision of the world, the reader wants something to read. That challenges - if they're in the mood for it - but is approachable. But not too approachable - we want to feel that we are special for being able to understand this. Prog fans saw themselves as a breed apart - largely male, geeky and grammar school. Do readers of innovative writing feel the same way?

How much do writers consider their audience?

I've just read a poem that is very approachable - an elegy for Brian Glancy. A very traditional elegy in many ways. Not at all experimental. Bit like Pete Sinfield writing for Bucks Fizz?


Matt Merritt said...

Thanks for flagging up these programmes, Steven. I've only been able to watch bits of them, but no doubt they'll repeat them soon.

The bits I saw highlighted, I thought, the fact that 'prog' was no more homogenous than most schools or groupings, and as you say, the real link between it all was just the urge to go off in new directions. And much as I love punk, it showed what a nonsense it was to write off everything prog as somehow hopelessly self-indulgent.

One band and performer I didn't see mentioned was Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill, who I always thought provided a sort of link between prog and punk. I may just have been unlucky, though - did they figure in the programmes at all?

Steven Waling said...

I don't think they did. And neither were the Enid ( I have a friend who's really into them.)