Monday, 24 April 2000

From a letter to the Chicago Review

by Peter Riley.

The poetry that developed through Cambridge in the 1960s and 1970s [...] proposed a relationship of tensity between language and experience which was complex, subtle and of immense range, and fundamentally musical. It inhabited a threshold of great power because it gathered together the fullest possible versions of cognition neither wholly constructed nor wholly discovered, and proposed high and continual song as the great cohering and honoring force of this perceptual opening. The self in it was multiple, historical, regal or bewildered or excited or humiliated, but anchored on formative work, demanding completion out of its scatter by working through the material ruthlessly toward the final cadence, every poem an exercise in the form of mortality. It was a poetry which did not subserve anything but its own possibilities, spreading out over the world's categories. It had novelty only as it needed it, to regain the full content of the song from its history; innovation was a by-product. It was not a reaction to anything but the whole condition. Compared with most British poetry from mid-century it occupied a totally different scale of necessity, touching on grandeur in its vise-like grip on presence. In all the talk that surrounded it and among all sorts of disasters, the scan remained open and generous, refusing to disqualify any honest effort, and for all the complaining, guarding quite fiercely against resentment and aggressive impotence.

No comments: