Monday, August 03, 2015

Comment on Derby poet Jon Stone's Facebook, 3/8/15.

(Originally a comment on Derby poet and Sidekick Books founder Jon Stone's Facebook.)

Your man sticks the undisguised boot and knife in in a viciously eloquent way; and i think his opinions are entertainingly expressed, considering what it is we are reading.  A throwaway piece written for a small fee from a critical bruiser and regular contributor to the Guardian phone-booth slash social-media platform.

Usually i find his prose there to be intellectually dense and impenetrable, and it has always reminded me of being like a contemporary pseudo-equivalent to iarm-berla, the bardic 'iron language'. One of the five 'Divisions of (Gaelic) Language' that you learn from the 150 leaf Medieval poet-training manual found in both the Book of Ballymote and the Book of Lecan, Auraicept na n-Éces, first translated as Scholar's Primer in 1917 by George Calder, and only recently easily accessible thru the internet; was the division of language that poets reserved for communicating to one another their most druidic thoughts and opinions. Or, as you learn from the 7C author of this seminal text's Ogham Scales section, iarm-berla is 'the speech Iar Mac Nema discovered last', (page 17) and is 'not possible to analyse'.

Like many of O'Brien's Erastes-like critically pedagogic praise-prose judgements handed down from the Guardian culture social-media platform to obsequious ass-kissing poet eromenoi, it is a densely riddled textual speech impossible for the untrained eye to make any sense of. But here, impelled by a negative cerebral force of anwyn and opinion, with the primeval male savagery and bass literary grunt draped in the velvet sheen of a faux supportive voice, SOB makes a very skilful piece of writing. 

In which he manages to successfully convey to a general reader that he has Underwood's best poetic interests at heart as a senior fellow colleague in the demonstration of professional literary love. Whilst in prosaic reality, beneath the sentences' superficially supportive surface, Sir Sean is disrespectfully thrashing a new kid on the block with all the self-suppressed restraint of an alpha-bear at a semi-formal work event after an annoying day in the office, dressed in a wolf suit, perhaps, releasing their work frustration on a rough-trade twink up a Camden laneway.

Tossing a string of elegantly wrought toxic barbs that hit the back of the net and cause the Underwood supporters to break out in retaliatory chanting, that SOB is just a curmudgeonly old fart in need of lightening up and getting with the 'new' American style of an inspired language program.

'Dadio O'Brien', the eighties-born acolytes of contemporary hipster-ism seem to ironically and self-consciously respond, 'you need to be sacked from the job/ and let others come out to play/ in poetry playground/ with their friends/ other poets.'

When O'Brien notes that Underwood's world on the page is 'largely a personal matter composed of the problems of love and selfhood', this critical/trollish contention can be - is it the case - easily proven by most intellectual literary critics/trolls in any contemporary English language debating chamber throughout the global poetry village; be it where O'Brien is publishing his opinion, or here?

When reading the Yorkshire man opine that the ubiquitous O'Haraesque New York style a generation of self-appointing twenty-something hipster-poets are currently publishing, is - 'not so much faux-naive as faux-urbane; emotion turning into attitude, and defensive for all its apparent self-exposure' - is it also clear that this isn't a challenging argument for an experienced and emotionally detached literary assassin to adopt and convince a majority of the audience in a debate to agree with them as being the more accurate and truthful contention of the two they must judge and decide in favour of?

(Big Smiley)

'At times, indeed, Underwood seems to be aspiring to invertebracy', an absence of backbone, and this 'cartoon detail, combined with a tone at once demonstrative and short of affect, mark a kind of indie house style that can be read (and perhaps more significantly, heard) almost anywhere at present.'?

Tho i have, as a point of pride and principle, never publicly agreed with or praised in print anything Sir Sean has written, in this instance i am unable to disguise that I am in agreement with him on more or less everything old grumpy nickers has to opine in this review. Indeed, at the start of one's career as an online critic/troll, i regularly and childishly in atrociously presented copy mocked Seanie boy's every appearance on the Guardian poetry blogs; where i spent six/seven years evolving this contemporary critical-creative practice of speculative discourse picked up from Robert Sheppard in Ormskirk.

I must agree with it because his thoughts concur exactly with one's own contention that the language in the Underwood poems, that i've read, is overrated by his fawns, and in reality much closer to what is found in self-consciously precious and culturally quirky English narrative prose anecdotes with one or two unremarkable poetic flourishes and twists interspersed thru the lines.

This self-obsessional sub-Monty Pythonesque crazee narrative tone of the new 'I' voice is championed and peddled as relevant by only a handful of self-interested acolytes, friends, supporters and editors. Blurbed to the public as the latest seismic innovation in contemporary English poetry, that has escaped its factional British Poetry Revival antecedent and is now an inclusive come all ye mainstream variety of the post-avant poetry of Now!

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.

I must confess to have recently trolled our new Johnny dolla on American poetry sites, because i Lmao@theIronicPoet's thumbs up of Jennifer L. Knox in this summer's (2015) Poetry Review. In it Underwood quotes extensively from Knox, but in my ear what gets him turned on, in my own reckoning all sounds very anti-intellectual, and the depressingly infantile voice at the uncritical heart of a banal scatalogical poetic. Wow.

This line from Knox that Underwood praises is pretty much the standard fare SOB is whinging about: “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.”

Again, this from Knox is reliant on the reader seeing thru and laughing along with the ironic shock-value voice that is all very self-aware white-collar and connects with very few readers, but a handful of smugly self-congratulatory class-conscious nerds and geeks who find this sort of thing funny.

Stuff that, imo, can only be written by the very young without much experience or training to recognise that 'ironic voice' alone does not transmute the pedestrian prose it is speaking into some sort of highly intelligent comedy-magic on the poetic page just because a few well-connected literary lovers of this brand of the Now bray loudly at our own in-jokes.

I will stop there but would love to debate more with anyone at all. My own find this week came via Leah Fritz. Carol Rumens chose I am the Body Electric by Walt Whitman as last week's Guardian poem of the week, and left a comment recommending Stephen Watt, who i had not heard of but watched and read his language and thought, this is what we need to champion more than either Sir Sean or Sir Jack's gear.

 Ironic emoji-face. One eye winking, the other open. Frozen straight-line mouth and general wupee vibe.

Stephen Watt's Poetry from Native Spirit on Vimeo.
Native Spirit Festival 2010
London, October 2010

Charismatic Anglo-Italian poet Stephen Watt reads his poetry during an evening in Amnesty International at the 4th Native Spirit Festival

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