Poetry and a rant by Sandra Horn

I’m a little shrinking violet, really. Avoiding conflict at all costs, not showing off (‘drawing attention to yourself’always disapproved of mightily at home), but here goes: I’m going to show off and be controversial, all in the one blog, so there.

First, the showing off. I’ve already Facebooked and Twittered this, but I haven’t finished yet: I have three poems in the current issue of The Blue Nib! Yes! The editor commented, ‘I like these plangent poems and the acute way you deal sensitively with what can often be very clichéd issues.’  Cor blimey! (that’s me, not the Editor). I’m blushing as I write, but only a little bit. 

Now the controversy, which is about poetry – or not-poetry and not-art and not-music. William Carlos Williams started it with his note about eating the plums from the fridge. That’s what it is, a note left for his wife telling her that he’d eaten the plums. It’s been anthologised all over the place. Is it a poem? And who am I to question such a famous writer anyway? I’m a reader, that’s who. An avid, hungry consumer of words of all kinds, but poetry in particular. I have a completely crammed book-case, spilling over with poetry books, a tottering pile by my bed. Alice Oswald is coming to a local(ish) venue next month and if I don’t get a ticket I might just explode*. It doesn’t make me an informed critic, I know – I lack the right kind of education – but there is so much joy in the well-crafted work even for those like me.  

I was encouraged by Shirley Bell’s editorial in The Blue Nib (Woops! Have I mentioned it again?) in which she makes a strong case for poetry that has been ‘edited and honed... and with every line break, comma and full stop earning its place’. She quotes Rebecca Watts,** who, with no holds barred, has slated the ‘cohort of young female poets’ who are being praised for their ‘honesty’ and ‘accessibility’ – ‘buzzwords for the open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of the craft that characterises their work.’ Phew! I wonder what she makes of WCW’s plums?
I feel the same kind of thing about minimalist music, but I’ve found myself in the middle of angry arguments about it before now, having written that repeating the same four bars without modulation or development ad vomitum is not music.

It’s not just a question of whether it’s a pleasing noise to me, a lot of Wagner passes me by but I recognise the genius at work. And then there’s ‘art’ – nailing a fried egg to a table (Sarah Lucas) may be fun for the nailer, and in T. Emin’s terms, if the perpetrator calls it art, it is art, but for me it’s cheap lazy rubbish as it was not researched and crafted and honed, just flung together in a few minutes.
Perhaps I’m just a dinosaur, aged and ignorant, banging on about – ‘I don’t know much but I know what I like.’ Yep, that’s probably it.
Over and out.
T. Rex.

 * I got a ticket! 
** in February 2018 PN Review


Susan Price said…
Congratulations, Sandra!
And T. Rex -- I tend to agree.
Bill Kirton said…
Now that you've ranted your full 'but I know what I like' rant (in such a charmingly gentle manner), Sandra, you've created a space for me to slink in alongside you and risk adding 'Hear, hear' to it.
Umberto Tosi said…
Congratulations, Sandra, on your poems in the Blue Nib and on your fine, public rant! We can't have too many good rants. They clear the air and rouse our spirits!
Ann Turnbull said…
Just found and printed your poems, Sandra - huge congratulations! You are an inspiration to me. And yes, I support your rant.

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