Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A State of Independence

Browsing in the Scottish Poetry Library recently, I found a copy of an anthology called A State of Independence, edited by Tony Frazer, who is behind the Shearsman magazine and press, one of the UK’s most important outlets for quality, non-mainstream poetry.

The anthology, first published in 1998, features 18 poets, about 10 pages to each, all of whom come from outwith the poetic mainstream.

Tony Frazer writes in his introduction:

“If these poets are so worthy of attention, why is it that they are not all given the accolades accorded their more mainstream contemporaries? It may be that refusal to play the literary-political power game or not bothering to be a reviewer / reader / lecturer / biographer proves detrimental to a poetry "career" as it exists these days in Britain.

"Innovators of course — and some of those included here may justifiably claim that description — are always outside the canon, until such time as they are recognised as forgotten geniuses — as with Basil Bunting in Britain — or until the canon swivels about to accommodate them — as with John Ashbery in the USA (although his fecundity and intellectual playfulness still seem distrusted in Britain).

"No conspiracy, this, but simply the natural moves and countermoves made by political human beings, who seek comfort with their kin and the safety of their own walls rather than an exploration of the harsher country beyond.”

I’ve decided to read the book, and to write about each of the poets in turn on this blog. Obviously, I am not attempting to judge the work of these poets overall, but simply to provide a personal reaction to the work evidenced in the anthology – a reaction from one reader to poets who are attempting to write in a non-conventional way, and who have some skill in doing so.

The poets featured are mainly UK poets, but there are a few from other nationalities. They are:

Guy Birchard
Richard Caddel
David Chaloner
Peter Dent
Andrew Duncan
Roy Fisher
Harry Guest
Lee Harwood
Philip Jenkins
Grace Lake
Tom Lowenstein
Christopher Middleton
David Miller
Billy Mills
Peter Riley
Gael Turnbull
Catherine Walsh
John Welch.

I’ll be back with my reaction to Guy Birchard over the next day or two.


Julie Carter said...

Rob, I am a bozo. I've been meaning to link to your commentary on WEE but keep forgetting! Off to do it now.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks Julie! Hope you and your legions of readers are enjoying it.