Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sheer Numbers

One of the things Ron Silliman is frequently commenting on is the question of numbers. There are now more poets writing than there are ever were before. Is this a good thing, or are we going to see a decline in quality because of so much quantity?

Certainly, it's impossible to read all this poetry, unless you spend 24 hours a day reading it all and have a private income big enough to buy all the books (or you're important enough to get them all sent free to you...) And where would you put them? I have to have regular a clearout just to provide some space to put the books...

And there are so many different kinds of poetry - or writings that come under the banner of poetry in some way - from highly experimental to highly traditional, and every combination in between. If I feel personally that England at least produces rather too much bland quietist verse, there's still plenty out there to keep me interested. Poets I think I ought to be reading, and haven't got round to, poets I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot bargepole, poets I might find interesting if I had the time.

Then there are the poets I ought to discover that have been forgotten about. There's a new anthology of Mervyn Peake's poetry that looks fascinating - a good addition, I think, to my collection of forgotten '40's poets. There's soem poems in an article about Nicholas Moore in PN Review that look really good.

How do we evaluate it all? Most of it will probably not last - but then some will be forgotten forever, some will get rediscovered, some will get reforgotten. Some big names now will disappear, I suspect.

I ought to be reading more Peter Riley, for instance. He sounds fascinating from the recent article in PN Review - just up my street. But when will I get the time?

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