Friday, 1 April 2011
PBS fight goes on... mainstreams and delta... transit
Letters here and there, petitions, discussion. Over on Facebook I have started one conversation around my last blog, here and another based on the PBS's own site and petition here.
I will admit to having got cross with one commenter and have been on shorter fuse than usual when the factionalism that has long been a characteristic of UK poetry started up again. 'The PBS supports the wrong kind of poetry, etc'. Well, that may be just your opinion, man, as Lebowski memorably put it, and it is a perfectly legitimate opinion. In some cases it comes from a healthy visceral oppositionism, in some cases from resentment, in some cases from a philosophical difference. I worked with Denise Riley very happily for years, and recently welcomed readers from Carrie Etter's fine anthology of 'non-mainstream' women poets at UEA. I have students who are distinctly not 'mainstream'. So much for me personally. I have no quarrel with poetries of any sort as far as I know. It might be interesting to study the list of those I have taught at one or other time, or even now.
Interestingly, some of those who complain about the mainstream fit perfectly well into the mainstream as I understand it, but are not quite famous enough for their own liking. That's in so far as there is one mainstream. It seems to me, surveying the lists of various poetry publishers, that neither Carcanet nor Bloodaxe have a single stream. There are, rather, streams running beside each other, some just a little further removed. The central mainstream is probably the one that runs through educational anthologies, and the contents of those are determined by educational interests. In any case, I rather like the idea of a delta, which seems to me a much more useful analogy.
In any case, at such a time, the factionalism seems to me an inadvertent way of supporting the cutting of any organisation that doesn't, or didn't do what you wanted.
Myself, am reading at Cheltenham tonight with Nigel McLoughlin and a Georgian Choir as part of the festival. I stay overnight then straight to Sheffield where, on Sunday morning, I discuss poetry translation with Simon Armitage, do a reading in the afternoon with Agnes Lehoczky (Agi is one of my recent ex-students, try her for mainstream!) then, the next evening engage in a debate with Michael Schmidt on the subject of The Tyranny of Relevance for the Leeds Salon, this time being held at Sheffield. Then straight back for the last session of the MA workshops, as run by the splendid Moniza Alvi, at UEA. I have linked above to both Cheltenham and Sheffield (another distinctly non-'mainstream' festival). The heroics of Anna Saunders at Cheltenham are worth praising to the skies. It's a first time festival and a free gig for me. Let it flourish!!