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The T.S. Eliot prize saga continues: John Kinsella issues manifesto

By Harriet Staff

John Kinsella, who withdrew from the T.S. Eliot prize competition a week ago after learning the award was funded by hedge fund manager Aurum, has published a piece in the New Statesman about activism and poetry. “I have been a vegan and pacifist for over 25 years, an anarchist for 30 years and a poet since I was a small child,” he writes. “Over a lifetime of writing, these four factors have interwoven into an ‘activist poetics’ in which I practice ‘linguistic disobedience’ in the hope of bringing about positive social, ethical and political change.” He goes on:

Is there such a thing as “officially sanctioned” verse? Yes, there is. It’s poetry that passes through newspapers, schools, bookshops and even the net, without causing discomfort in the reader and publisher, student or teacher; without prompting questions about the problems of the environment in which we read, and the poem was created.

“Linguistic disobedience” might be achieved in many ways: by speaking out of turn, by disrupting syntax and “meaning”, and by offering comparisons between disparate things. It might be a case of the poem acting as “witness”, a recording of what’s normally “unseen”, ignored or denied. It can be subtle — using allusion and slight shifts from convention — and it can be volatile — from agitprop to rants.

Poetry, he explains, has a duty to draw connections. “I am trying to write a poetry of cause and effect,” he writes, “of the interconnectedness of things, of awareness that our actions have consequences.”

Read the whole piece here.

Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.