A forum post on two poets

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A forum post on two poets
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Here is a forum post on two poets. If anyone likes it, I'll write something more substantial on someone...

1. In his detached, moralising, world is Roy Fisher complicit himself, or the work just a matter of fact depiction of an irritating banality of life? With no means to settle that, whether the poem embraces (a realistic depiction) or rejects (with the poem being part of the problem) closure, it does so only according to the demands of the reader.

"Birmingham's what I think with"

The manner in which the great modern poets disfigured and fractured the lyric subject included the concealment and the contradictory juxtaposition (see Pound's Cantos) of it. Fisher, outside these traditions, creates a network of meaningful expressions needing what it cannot have, resolution. Subtended only by an increasing complexity, and just poetry.

The formal properties of the poem are fairly accomplished, and at turns mirror each side of its contradictory content: criticism and submission.

          The irritations of comfort—

          I visit as they rebuild the house

There is an assonance between the offbeat of "of" and the offbeat "-fort" which seems to make the last term collapse into an overweening insistence. Both syllables are a deviation from the norm, a slow pyrrhic, followed by the tail of a trochee. This is exasperated by the way every ictus in the line is very close to, rested in, each other; it nearly but not quite breaks the expectation of more iambs to follow. The irritated poet is near to giving up on the rhythm so far: and with it the entire poem.

The next line is more musical, "as" being much less stressed than "vis-" and "-build", so much so that it is somewhat ambiguous whether it should be read as beginning with two iambs (stumbling quickly over "they") or just one (with an accusatory emphasis on "they"). Then the final term "house" picks up the poem's general theme of renovation: an assonance between "as" and the first phoneme of its diphthong suggests something unsurprising yet engaging; just as "house" loses salience next to the strong exclamatory stress on "-build".

2. So called LANGUAGE poetry, which explicitly rejects the need for closure, may appear to fare better. A canonical example is Silliman's radical re-construal of the sentence as the basic element of poetry, in place of the line. I will quickly summarise Grenier's poem drawings, which displace the line with their hand drawn counterparts.

In these, any supposed essence to poetry is deformed, and retained as an arbitrary addition. The reader faces a content formed only from the deviation from traditional language. As such any reading can only be less wrong: reading letters frustrate the traditional privileged ways of reading.

It would be useless to decry this as faddy (language poetry is 40 years old) or redundant (when conceptual poets like Goldsmith have said the same for the sensitive lyric subject). But its poetics it seems is parasitic on a past tradition that it can only go beyond in the bold assertions of a literary criticism which too neatly divides up literature.

A success as long as the tradition wasn't; a tradition it cannot really dispose of. And so just post-modern.

Politically, Roy Fisher rejects the left and right of the bourgeois political spectrum, but can find no alternative. LANGUAGE poetry is overwhelmingly leftist. Poetically, Grenier fails because his form revives modernism; the content of Fisher fails because it doesn't.


I kindaa bluffed / made up

I kindaa bluffed / made up the two main points: of Fisher's poem lack of closure; and Grenier's poem depending upon the tradition if it's to make sense. 

Though both make sense... I may do a more posi review of Ted Hughes / John Ashbery (who is a lot more difficult to place!!).