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.