UK Poetry Magazine's National Conversation Failure.
Magma poetry magazine is a UK Arts Council subsidised publication
that bills itself 'one of Britain’s leading poetry magazines', claiming
it is 'more than a magazine, but 'a community of people, open to
everyone passionate about celebrating a wide mix of poetry.'
year it is undertaking what it calls a 'National Conversation'
'designed to provoke thought, ignite debate and encourage all of us to
move deeper into the art form.'
However on Magma's Facebook page,
that consists of little more than the odd link to articles elsewhere,
and which, accepting on face value its claim of promoting healthy robust
'national conversation' and debate, should welcome contrary opinions;
this response to a link posted there yesterday (6 July 2015) to a pdf
article from the current Poetry Review issue (Summer 2005) by Jack Underwood on Jennifer L Knox, was immediately hidden from public view, and, rather than being deleted, was made visible only to my Desmond Swords and All Ireland Poetry Slam Facebook accounts.
because it reveals the mentality of whoever's editing the Magma
Facebook page. Rather than delete the comment and be upfront and honest
about their editorial practice and where they really stand on those that
take a contrary position, they attempted to give the impression to me
that the comment was publicly visible, in keeping with their much
publicised National Conversation, which the non-exclusionary and
inclusive language blurbing the ethos of it ostensibly claims to be all
I only discovered this after writing and
publishing the comment, by using another Facebook account I use for the
uncovering of such social-media duplicity by those claiming they're all
about fostering freely expressed dialogue and critical conversation,
when they are clearly not.
am not a huge fan of either poets' writing, because I think that the
language of their 'poems' is very overrated and much closer to that
found in quirky narrative prose anecdotes with the odd poetic flourish.
Reliant wholly on that irony of speaking tone
that can only be written by the very young unable to recognise that
'ironic voice' alone does not transmute the pedestrian prose it is
speaking into some sort of high-poetic intelligent comedy-magic on the
page just because a few people bray loudly at their own in-jokes.
we're encouraged to believe, by a few well placed editors and their
supporters, as having a cutting-edge conceptual pedigree wholly new and
exciting to the English line. Don't read the words literally, we are
urged, but think of them as being really great ironically rendered
poetry arising out from some kind of deeply intellectual and
experimentally innovative literary play by England's finest new poetry
custodians being all very American.
and peddled by a handful of editors as the latest seismic innovation in
post-pomo English poetry that has escaped its factional British Poetry
Revival antecedent and is now an inclusive come all ye mainstream
variety of the New. But of course is really reliant on little else but a
sub-Monty Pythonesque crazee narrative tone and shock-value voice that
is all very middle-class and connects with very few readers, but a
handful of smugly self-congratulatory nerds and geeks who find this sort
of thing funny.
quotes extensively from Knox, but in my ear it all sounds very
anti-intellectual, depressingly childish and banal. This line being
pretty much standard fare: “Hey check out that dog’s ass wow that dog’s
ass is hot that dog’s got a hot dog ass I want squeeze that dog’s ass
like a ball but a hot ball a hot ass ball.”
stuff is little better. Slowly enunciated prose anecdotes that rely on
the ubiquitous and wholly unearned
intonation, by a self-congratulatory pleased-with-itself middle-class
English voice in print through the vagaries of passing literary fashion
and a small micro-scene of hipsters and expensive editorial blurbing,
that, I am certain, will be assessed in the not too distant future for
the somewhat, only in my own opinion, over-praised and unremarkable
pedestrian language it really is when stripped of the inessential
background po-biz noise blurbing how great it all is, and left on the
page to speak for itself.
i find interesting structurally, in a general sense, is the disconnect
between poetry and prose in contemporary English poetry culture. We are
given the impression anything goes and it is a great time to be an
independent experimental crazee doing your own thing, but as soon as you
become satirical about it in spontaneous critical conversation, most of
the self-declared crazees suddenly become very precious and straight
squares, making it plain that there's an acutely conservative and
exclusionary agenda in operation behind the tenor of inclusion and
social revolution that the rhetorical surface of the critical language
surrounding this 'new' poetry ostensibly suggests.
in which coteries and bands of poet-friends are ruthlessly not engaging
in real debate or critical conversation, but communicating, in the
main, in a Facebook micro-bubble language in which brevity and witty one
liners are the norm, and those keen to test ideas by live
conversational print, are very much in a minority and not at all
encouraged to speak. With any of this kind of new experimental
creative-critical spontaneous prose writing comedically deleted and
blocked from the social-media pages claiming to advocate conversation
and contemporary critical debate. Not for the language itself being
inappropriate or offensive in any way, but purely for speaking honestly
in a voice trained not by a process of seeking validation from
publishers, but by the act of just doing it, critical prose, anywhere
there's a free online page and an audience.
one's long-term literary faith by continual free-writing practise and
the methodical study of bardic tradition and its fourteen year
poet-training curriculum, rather than the Tudor poet-courtier model, in
which knowing your place in a pecking order and prize-culture is the
paradigm most cleave to from the very beginning to the very end of our
writing journeys. Rather than developing and evolving over years of
practise, our authority on the page reliant solely on the approval of
one or two of the dreaded pasha Poetry Editors.
majority of whom were unable to embrace the online revolution because
it undermined their own roles of being the gate-keepers of 'good'
poetry. That can only ever be the opinion of a person, expressed in
varying degrees of eloquence and relevance. If, for example, a voice
were to appear on the majority of social-media pages claiming they
promote conversation and debate, The Poetry Society
being the most obvious one, speaking the hot ass argot and sweary fuck
off blah blah blah that Underwood finds so titillating in poetry, that
voice would be deleted for being offensive; yet somehow the same
banality in this prose-as-poetry, is lauded.