Wednesday, 15 February 2012

LSE Debate & Hungary

I have agreed to take part in a debate at 6.30 on 7 March at the LSE about the state of Hungary. It was a difficult decision, not because I wasn't sure I wanted to do it, but because I am currently preparing The Finzi Lecture at Reading University, a long piece on the Sister Arts for 6 March and am reading at the university at lunchtime on the 7th, so I'll have to go straight from one event to the other. I would have far preferred to have gone to the debate with a properly prepared argument a week later but it wasn't possible.

I have ideas about the kind of case I would present but I will keep my powder dry on that since it had better come as a surprise to opponents, who are likely to include George Schopflin, the Hungarian ambassador or, possibly, Roger Scruton, since these are the names that have been mentioned, but I don't yet know for sure. I am, in any case, the only literary person likely to take part so that may be either advantage or disadvantage.

I have taken part in debates before, but most have been about ideas - this one is more important to get right. I don't think I can just think on the spot. But I have been putting information here for a while now, so there is plenty of material to hand, and it comes in every day.

The most famous and ever debatable lines on poetry and politics are these by Auden from his In Memory of W B Yeats:

For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

Those ranches of isolation and the busy griefs are generally where poetry begins, and it does indeed survive as a way of happening, a mouth. A debate is not a poem, nor is a plea, but the poetry of raw towns that we believe and die in is what is at stake.

More practical details to come.

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