Saturday, 25 November 2000

From "Agoraphobia, and the embarrassment of manifestos"

By Drew Milne.

[...] the art of the manifesto, the art of a kind of poetic and declarative statement which risks a community of possible misinterpretations and abuses. This art of the propositional or polemical statement need not be restricted to prose; it is perhaps evident in Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and The Cantos, and in the work of Wilkinson and Prynne. There is a pleasing, even epic quality about a kind of public declaration which can bring its private extremities into sharp and critical relief against the violent hierarchical demotics of what is called public speaking. Nevertheless, nothing is more worrying in twentieth century British poetry than the prospect of being known and read as a writer of a manifesto; mangled by critics who plough in endless litanies of the obvious; only then to be ignored for having committed the original sin of putting statements of intention before poetic achievement. Nevertheless these necessary reasons for embarrassment with manifestos hide the extent to which the manifesto is a key modernist art form in its own right, and an art form which demonstrates the dynamics of a relation between aesthetics and politics.

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