Hail Glad Crowds,
I’m reading at this event, which is part one of two (the other’s on the 16th and equally tempting). It was an curious title to invite a poet to read under so I did a bit of interrogating and found out the organisers are taking the ‘Against the Poets’ title from an essay by Polish 20th century novelist Gombrowicz. Turns out that the essay, rather than a self-indulgent, lazy tirade trotting out tired opinions about elitism in poetry, was an enjoyable provocation touching on some interesting points. I think the main thing I took from it was that Gombrowicz had identified some lazy behaviour in poetry audiences who wanted perhaps to consume poetry as a product which provided quick access to rapture and elysium, and that as poetry practices ossified into ritual it was in danged of becoming a dead art form with no connection to the lived life.
I’m still sceptical about this line of argument; the development of ritual and ossification even are processes which really interest me, along with their human roots and implications. But, the article was written around 1950 and I think there have been seismic shifts noticeable even to conservative poetry audiences since then. Even the likes of Larkin came after and pushed back the readership’s tolerance of scatalogical, painfully confessional or bathetic content, say. At the same time, I liked that Gombrowicz said that writers ought to make sure their work expressed themselves in a true way. The call to remember that your creative products should be hard won attempts to wrest something of your experience and most strained-after perceptions if they’re to further knowledge, is welcome to my ears still.
Gombrowicz talked about ‘endlessly lofty singing’ as his experience of poetry, of being bored by it. I’m pleased to say that I think we’ve found ways of keeping the party going while updating the playlist.
By the way, Scottish Poetry Godfather Tom Leonard is reading at this event. OMG. So do come if you can.
That there’s Gombers himself. Ooh!