Sunday 20 June 2021

2 poetry hatchet jobs

  • "Bad and ungenerous reviews are necessarily more subjective than positive and generous reviews, because as with any other manifestation of ill will, the bad reviewer is indulging in an egotistical display of some state of mind that is supposed to enhance the reviewer's status at the expense of the subject of the review" (Jane Smiley)
  • "one cannot review a bad book without showing off" (Auden)

Yet there must be more to reviewing than appreciating the books you like, and being silent about the others. In Hatchet jobs: Agony for the author but bliss for us to read John Walsh writes "The best hatchet jobs are wholesale demolitions, performed without any judicious weighing of strengths and weaknesses, and carried off with murderous glee." I don't know how good the review articles in "Areté 22" (2006) are, but neither have much judicious weighing. Adam Thirwell in "On Bad Poetry" quotes extensively from Daljit Nagra while Craig Raine takes on Don Paterson.

"On Bad Poetry" by Adam Thirwell

  • His method is a cute amalgam of e e cummings and Dylan Thomas. From cummings, Nagra has inherited a habit of inverting words' grammatical status ... From Thomas he has borrowed obscurity
  • it is not enough simply to allude to another poem ... as if the borrowing will confer significance
  • I am not sure if it would be possible to write a more obscure sentence. It would certainly not be possible to write an uglier sentence. Nor would it be possible to discover a sentence which is more over-written. The reader of Daljit Nagra longs for a verb to be left alone, for it just to be simple. But no verb is left unturned.
  • The sentimental is Nagra's constant mode
  • This is Nagra's favourite style - in which word order is inverted, where adjectives and verbs are unexpected. It is meant to represent an outsider's freedom with English - but it simply sounds clumsy
  • As always, the situation is clear but the language is not

"Little Big Man: The Poetry of Don Paterson" by Craig Raine

  • The two great, natural enemies of poetry are exaggeration and euphemism
  • Paterson is serious - if not literal - about his melodramatic, metaphorical scenario. Alas. There is no ironic gap between the actuality and the image
  • exaggeration, a kind of immodesty that relies on no one calling your bluff ... Why would anyone credit this baloney, unless you were Jeanette Winterson? ...The absurd paper currency of runaway poetic inflation
  • That last line is a minor miracle of ugliness. You want to take it to Lourdes.
  • The tendency to exaggeration is endemic in Paterson's poetry and not restricted to the subjects of love and sex. This is partly cultural. Paterson comes from a culture that prizes the anecdote and the exaggeration that goes with it.

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