A simmering spat-storm burbling on the other side of the pond may well spill over into the international poetry world primarily because Oxford Poetry Professor Sir Geoffrey Hill (b. 1932) delivered a lecture on the state of the art and soundly put the UK's current poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, in her place. A poetic smack-down, if you will, one with "vicious," "spiteful" and "jealous" barbs from, for now, Sir Hill, a fact bound to change as the days pass us by since, as everybody knows, Duffy fearlessly — and occasionally foolishly — speaks her mind.
In his lecture, "Poetry, Policing and Public Order," Sir Hill took the 56-year-old Duffy to task for her willingness "to democratize" the highest art in existence (and, for my money, he did so with unimpeachable logic), citing her willingness to act as cheerleader for the so-called Facebook Generation (among other peccadilloes):
"For the common good she is willing to have quoted by The Guardian interviewer several lines from a poem by herself that could be easily be mistaken for a first effort by one of the young people she wishes to encourage . . . This is democratic English pared to its barest bean and I would not myself have the moral courage to write so. My simultaneous incompatible response is this is not democratic English but cast-off bits of oligarchical commodity English such as is employed by writers for Mills & Boon [think Harlequin]and by celebrity critics appearing on A Good Read or The Andrew Marr Show."
Ouch! For the record, Duffy did solemnly aver in The Guardian last September that the "poem is a form of texting . . . It's the original text . . . It's a perfecting of a feeling in language — it's a way of saying more with less, just as texting is. We've got to realize that the Facebook generation is the future — and, oddly enough, poetry is the perfect form for them. It's a kind of time capsule — it allows feelings and ideas to travel big distances in a very condensed form." (OMGag!!1!)
However, in the interest of fairness, Dear IOWerZ and Gentle Regular Readers, I ask you to compare the two snippets below and decide for yourselves who puts the preservation and growth of the art and craft of POETRY first, Poet Laureate Duffy or Oxford Poetry Professor Sir Hill?
Firstly, sample a part of Duffy's lyrical tribute dedicated to her "god" (David Beckham) she dubs Achilles:
Women hid him, concealed him in girls' sarongs; days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs . . . but when Odysseus came,
with an athlete's build, a sword and a shield, he followed him to the battlefield, the crowd's roar, and it was sport, not war,
his charmed foot on the ball . . .
but then his heel, his heel, his heel . . .
Now, compare these eight lines from Hill's Selected entitled Pavana Dolorosa:
Loves I allow and passions I approve: Ash-Wednesday feasts, ascetic opulence, the wincing lute, so real in its pretence, itself a passion amorous of love.
Self-wounding martyrdom, what joys you have true-torn among this fictive consonance, music's creation of the moveless dance, the decreation to which all must move . . .
In Brief: Congratulations to Janet Marie Rogers on her appointment as Victoria, BC's third poet laureate. (Now, if only my MP, Tony Clement, or my MPP, Norm Miller, would take notice of the rapidly rising rate of Canadian poets laureate and consider appointing one for our own dear Near North where all the funds go to the southern part of our riding/s thanks to the G8 Summit.) . . . Also, a tad late with this; but, the nom-news out of the US from the National Book Critics Circle makes no less compelling reading (as much for who made the cut as who didn't. Mmmfffmmm . . . :)).