It's not, I've discovered, the simple difficulty of non-mainstream poetry that I like.
I've been viewing the recently uploaded Veer About anthology at http://www.intercapillaryspace.blogspot.com/ - which is a wild and willfull collection of poet, visual poetry, art mixed with poetry and often very strange word-play, language poetry, straightforward modernism mixed in with all kind of avant-/post-avant poetry techniques, and while I've only just scratched the surface of what it does yet, I find myself drawn further and further in.
I probably won't end up liking everything. David Crystal's visual 'sonnets', which consist of brush strokes with a Chinese brush and ink? Hmm, maybe not... But then maybe... why not? There's material that probably will go above and to either side of my head, and not really make much purchase. Fair enough; but it's the wildness I like; the idea that has been planted somehow in these poets' heads: anything is possible. Anything probably isn't possible; but why not see if it is? There's a cover by Jennifer Pike Cobbing, wife of the late Bob: and remembering that lion of avant-gardism and what he considered to be poetry, I can see again how throughout the history of British poetry, since the '60's, there has been a wildness.
In fact, not just the '60's. One can see it in the early poems of Roy Fisher, Gael Turnbull, in Basil Bunting. It's a more confined wildness; but in that it didn't see the personal lyric as the soul voice of poetry, it was the beginning of poetry escaping its cages. One can see it too in the heteronymic profusion of Nicholas Moore, in the neo-romantics still not fully recovered. In the peculiar music of Lynnette Robert's Gods With Stainles Ears, or Joseph McCleod's The Ecliptic. One could go further back, to Blake and beyond...
In fact, one of the pervading influences must be that of Gertrude Stein, whose idea of writing as a form of sculpture and language as a non-referential medium affects a lot of the experimental writing going on at the moment. That, and the experiments of the dadaists, futurists and others from the early part of the 20th century. Here, language becomes not just about meaning, but about shape, sound, place on the page. It becomes sculptural and gestural, a form of abstract dance, and one makes one's way through it feeling confused, disoriented, and constantly in a state of anticipation. Which can get wearing in bulk. Sometimes, one longs for a straightforward statement.
But, even if I don't like all of this, I like the fact that it's possible. I like the fact that tennis players with words are doing without nets.
The winner of the 7th Fortnight Prize is....
2 weeks ago