Saturday, July 25, 2009

The State of British Poetry 2

Just as one thinks that poetry is on the rise, one reads the list of Forward Prize nominations ( and starts to despair again. I mean, what an unimaginative bunch. Nothing wrong with any of them; perfectly OK, and at least there is one name who might actually be interesting; but they could have looked a bit further, to say, Shearsman Press, to find a bunch of stuff that would actually be worth reading.

Instead, we get the same old names. Nothing wrong with any of them, though they don't appeal to me much. But it's the same old Faber/Picador hegemony with a couple of Americans thrown in. And in the case of Sharon Olds, an overwrought confessionalist duffer, frankly.

The real business of poetry, meanwhile, goes on under the radar. Get hold of Troubles Swapped For Something Fresh, new out from Salt, to see lots of interesting prose, prose poetic and poetic manifestos from a really exciting bunch of people, mainstream to post-avant. It will give a much more true analysis of what's actually going on in poetry than the Forward Prizes ever could. There we have a truely international grouping of ideas, of thought and emotion from the likes of Robert Shepherd, Nick Piombino, Nathan Thompson, Sheila E Murphy and a host of others, including my own modest contribution.

Perhaps poetry's under the radar status is no bad thing; it can go on and do things that official verse culture can't do. It can speak its visions uncluttered by the demands of the media. But it also needs to be heard. So go out and search out the real stuff, and don't bother with the prizewinners.

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