Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poet Mimics - Michael Schmidt

The By Leaves We Live event at the Scottish Poetry Library was good in all kinds of ways.

The seminars were interesting and provocative. To begin with, Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press said he felt too many poems submitted to him were nothing more than mimics of other contemporary poets. A batch of poems would sound like, say, John Ashbery (or whoever the flavour of the month happened to be), but lack these poets’ antecedents e.g. Beddoes, Clare etc. So not only a mimicry, but a superficial one.

He also felt that before the last few decades, there were really bad poem-submissions and really good ones. Now the majority occupied a dull middle ground – people who had learned technique enough to pass their poems off as clever and well crafted, poems that seemed to have style and voice – but the voice would have little depth to it, the style little individuality. Ultimately, average poems are never going to be good enough.

There’s lots more to say about this event. Soon.


Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Rob, that comment about so much poetry occupying a middle ground goes both ways of course, as there are journals that seem only to publish poems that share certain characteristics, whether that be a dull lack of adventure or an arch cleverness. It can't only be because that's all the editors get in the mail? or if it is, it must be to some extent because they have set themselves up as seeming to like that type of poetry?

Rob Mackenzie said...

Yes, I think you're right CGP. I'm sure poets who mimic the poets published in such magazines, who are no doubt mimicking others before them, stand a better chance of publication.

Michael Schmidt mentioned Paul Muldoon as someone many poets mimic - the arch cleverness, which really is clever with him, becomes a stylistic tick in others.

There are magazines that try to move beyond the middle ground - they are, of course, never easy to get into.