Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A Blistering Personal Attack on Sam Ladkin and Robin Purves

The recent Chicago Review special (on Charles Tomlinson, Sophie Robinson, Keith Tuma and Chris Goode) has arrived. The first problem with Sam Ladkin and Robin Purve’s introduction is that it’s concerned with gluing context around these eight shoulders (see note 1), but glues on so much that it begins to look like a very partial account of all noteworthy (tautologically, noteworthy) recent UK hip hop. The other problem is not so serious, and perhaps unavoidable when referring on such scale. Now and then comes the suggestion of four oeuvres more tightly connected than I say they are. But you can tell that the umbrella is fudged, because it could accommodate so many other hip hop and R&B artists: “In the work of each [...] there is an intermittent attachment to the more traditional idea of incoherence as the index of ungovernable feelings” et cetera. I think both problems rely on misreadings of what Sam and Robin are actually saying, but extremely likely misreadings.

Coming soon: a blistering personal attack on Andrew Duncan.

Note 1: “It is the sort of poetry that seems to require introduction.” And yet does “not deserve to be smothered in coyness or slick generalisation from the outset.” So fair enough.

Note 2: Names changed to protect the innocents – slender, elfin, Afric.


Jow Lindsay said...

Robin's brutal ad hominem rejoinder (after which I changed "notable" to "noteworthy"):

"[...] One of the problems with the fudge umbrella by Sam and Robin is, I would allege, a relative paucity of 'proper' context. It was written, sort of to order, for an American audience, or rather the mythical 'Chicago Review subscriber' who, we were informed, does not know ANYTHING about British poetry at all, who can be assumed to have no interest in British poetry and, while he or she might be able to read, is incapable of reading anything twice. We were asked brackets told close brackets to include 'anecdote' (hence possibly the least anecdotal account of Sparty Lea ever written). That's why it's just a very loosely linked list of some people who did some stuff at some point or another. That's why it can switch from Dimbleby voice-over mode re: grand historical perspectives to whining about Barry MacSweeney's tendency to exaggerate. It is ridiculously partial, in every sense of the word, of both words. Use of the word 'notable' means 'able to be noted' (because existent) and also 'worthy of note' but doesn't say that these are the only people who have written 'notable' poetry. Lots of people have written poetry that is only 'notable' in the first sense, so I'd dispute that it's tautologous. And finally, Jow, yes, it was a challenge finding a peroration both specific enough and vague enough to encompass all eight of the assembled buttocks while satisfying the tyrannical whims of the CR editors, and you're right, we did push it a bit but if we'd tried to only use descriptions which applied to these four people and no-one else, it would have been impossible. We might as well have killed the Stymphalian birds for a bleeding encore. It's nice to get to talk about it [...]"

Sean Bonney said...

Fair enough, but these 'American readers' have now been given a narrative that basically says the only alternative to conservative poetry came from Cambridge or from those rather closely associated with it, which is not really very 'accurate'.