Saturday, 2 May 2009

Some people who are NOT dead!

I hope The Guardian publish Harry Gilonis's lovely, lovely, lovely letter (below, sans the indents! I don't know how to do them, sorry Maggie!!)! Or at least Sean Bonney's lovely, lovely, lovely mandate (on his blog!)!


Dear Sirs,

Without remotely wanting to take any of the lustre off the poisoned chalice which Carol Ann Duffy has just accepted, can I take issue with Mark Brown and Patrick Wintour's weird assertion that she "consistently pushes the limits of form and language"? Ms Duffy is, as befits someone doing her new job, an extremely competent poet working within a self-defined "mainstream" which occupies perhaps an octave of a wide keyboard. Even mainstream poets know, really, that there's a lot more going on than what they are doing - as, of course, do avant-guardists; why must we pretend that this isn't so? If your journalists - or literary staff - don't know this, they should perhaps work a bit harder. ("Investigative" is I think the term?)

I could name dozens, if not hundreds, of UK poets who actually are consistently pushing the limits of form and language, but it would be more useful to invite your readers to decide for themselves:

Peel of Heather -
Omit Not
The New Moon its
clamoured sevens its
Sea-Saw Chambers

Nor the mind
Swung on Hooves, Vexed on Hinges


to a dance
to a Horse
(Horses we kept)

= = = = =

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head ... Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does ... And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.

= = = =

Both of these have pleasures to offer; but the former, which is NOT by Ms Duffy but by Maggie O'Sullivan, actually does do something new both formally and linguistically. There's little in the former (Ms Duffy's most famous poem, I should think) that hasn't been done - often with more zip and brio - in English poetry from Wyat on. To say this is not to downgrade Ms Duffy's work, but to state a factual truth - part of journalism's job, I always thought.

There's a good sampling or work in print and audio form from many more form-pushers at, which it might be kind to draw to your readers' attention. It might also be helpful to Messrs Brown and Wintour, come 2019.

Yours sincerely,

Harry Gilonis

1 comment:

Posie Rider said...

Darling I think it's V brave what you're doing but really, I think Carol was quite out there enough! Maggie is just a little mental and you can hardly count anything as a poem, right? I mean, Carol actually split the sentences up over different lines, crazy! Why not include my LabialElegiac next time? It's got words in it and it does very clever things with


I'm sure those Naundiad hax would understand!