Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Liking this a lot #4

Oh, one more. The excellent twohundredpercent's take on the ongoing catastrophe that is Darlington FC.

Liking this a lot #3

And, of course, Jenny's recent posts, particularly the excellent skewering of the noughties 'angel cult'. And the picture of me.

One point, Mrs, regarding the most recent post: you may think that a pan-European devotion to Yellow Magic Orchestra is a lie born of a sinister conspiracy dreamed up by the writers of modern languages textbooks, but I was fortunate enough to catch almost all of Laid Back's absolutely genius anti-drugs-message-that-was-surely-made-under-the-influence-of-drugs 'White Horse' in the 24-hour supermarket on Kert├ęsz utca today. Life on the continent really is like living inside an eternal Mantronix set.

Anyway, why would anyone not like Yellow Magic Orchestra?

Liking this a lot #2

Lorc's return with a post which is, even by his own high standards (this list of sarcastic essay comments from 2005 is a longstanding favourite of mine), seriously good.

Liking this a lot #1

Karl's interview with music writer Nick Kent for 3AM Magazine.

The relevance of vicars

As an aside to the Duffy stuff, a great quote from one of the best pieces of literary polemic I encountered last year:

Conservatism is the dominant voice of the age, which is one of steadily rising property prices and ostentation. In poetry, the great fear of radicalism (a kind of taxpayers’ revolt against the destruction of chartered intellectual property) found an outlet in a mixture of infantile regression and stylistic regression, in which inane and artificially irresponsible tones were mixed with a conscious and discreet return to outdated forms fragrant of ‘old money’, to Auden, Betjeman, and Larkin… poetry seemed stuck in a Christian youth club of 1955, with teenagers sneaking puffs on fags and a guitar-playing ‘relevant’ vicar.

Andrew Duncan, The Failure of Conservatism in Modern British Poetry

Friday, 1 May 2009

'Limits', you say?

Apparently, Carol Ann Duffy's poetry 'consistently pushes the limits of form and language'.

I'm not bothered about who becomes the laureate: it's a crap job for crap poets to write crap poems to crap spec. If Duffy wants the job, I'm pleased for her, and it seems some mark of progress that a writer whose sexuality 'would not play well with Middle England' a decade ago is not thought of in the same terms now (this is not to say that we don't have a long way to go.) Beyond identity politics, though, the likely appointment is reflective not only of Establishment (whatever that means) tastes, but - as the mood of vindication in the broadsheets suggests - those of people often entrusted with providing the nation with a cultural mirror.

Duffy's visual equivalent would be someone like Beryl Cook - cheeky, even scathing, but not the kind of artist who could be honestly said to be even glimpsing the limits, let alone 'pushing' them. And yet when you dare to point this kind of thing out to people, you're all too often met with a vague and yet pissed-off charge of 'elitism': you're a 'critic' who wants to spoil the 'fun' for everybody else. The consensus seems to be that British people should not be allowed to admire artwork more complex than L.S. Lowry; the argument which points out that the potential enjoyment of modernist and abstract art, poetics, and music by the general population is hampered by a covert (and not so covert) ideology of say-what-you-see realism which is instrumental to Britain's real elitism is generally given short shrift.

So it's not the appointment of Duffy that is the problem here: it's the media's celebration of her simultaneous 'difficulty' and 'accessibility'. The former is a fantasy, and one which is applied to far too much British poetry which has not earned the tag. The latter is still more problematic: 'accessibility' seems to be one of those business-speak buzzwords, implying that most people are too stupid to make their own decisions about everything else out there.