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Poetry Beef, Duffy & Hill Edition

By Harriet Staff

Geoffrey Hill says “You are wrong” about poetry as a form of texting, and also you are not a good poet, to Carol Ann Duffy, according to this piece in the Guardian.

A bit on the texting:

“When the laureate speaks to the Guardian columnist to the tremendous potential for a vital new poetry to be drawn from the practice of texting she is policing her patch, and when I beg her with all due respect to her high office to consider that she might be wrong, I am policing mine,” said Hill, in a lecture entitled “Poetry, Policing and Public Order”. The Oxford professor of poetry has previously described difficult poems as “the most democratic because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing they are intelligent human beings”, saying that “so much of the popular poetry of today treats people as if they were fools”.

Then, on her poetry:

Having dismissed Duffy’s texting comparison, Hill moved on to her poem, “Death of a Teacher”, which is quoted in the interview: “You sat on your desk / swinging your legs, reading a poem by Yeats // to the bored girls, except my heart stumbled and blushed / as it fell in love with the words and I saw the tree / in the scratched old desk under my hands, heard the bird in the oak outside scribble itself on the air.”

The “eloquence” of the poem, he suggests, “might be enhanced if the third line were allowed to retain its position below the second” (there is a stanza break), but Hill really doesn’t hold out much hope for its rehabilitation. “What Professor Duffy desires to do I believe – and if so it is a most laudable ambition – is to humanise the linguistic semantic detritus of our particular phase of oligarchical consumerism. And for the common good she is willing to have quoted by the Guardian interviewer several lines from a poem by herself that could easily be mistaken for a first effort by one of the young people she wishes to encourage,” he said.

“I respond to this excerpt in two ways, each radically incompatible with the other. My first response is this is democratic English pared to its barest bean and I would not myself have the moral courage to write so. My simultaneous incompatible response is this is not democratic English but cast-off bits of oligarchical commodity English such as is employed by writers for Mills & Boon and by celebrity critics appearing on A Good Read or the Andrew Marr show,” he said.

He lightens up a little bit, but you’ll have to make the jump for that.


Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012 by Harriet Staff.