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Friday, July 27, 2007

Hootenanny of Havoc

In his new ragbag of essays Meaning Performance, Tony Lopez revisits the hootenanny of havoc that was Iain Sinclair’s Conductors of Chaos, writing:

A smaller number of the notices however contained more considered responses which began to find differences among the poets printed together in the book. Robert Potts (1996) for instance, in The Times Literary Supplement, noticed that it is possible to deploy a range of postmodern textual procedures of composition and to use them for some intelligent or moving reason that he can identify, and he lists a number of poems that interest him. What this means of course, is that there is a wide range of material included in Conductors of Chaos and that the worst model for representing this range is a binary opposition of good and bad, accessible or obscure. Such a binary model is the approach that most reviewers (including Potts) take.

{Quotation ends}

Robert Graves, readers of Goodbye to All That will remember, was asked to explain himself by an Oxford tutor who announced that ‘It appears you prefer some authors to others, Mr Graves’.

Not many people read small-press or innovative poetry in Ireland or Britain. Some from within that world might bewail, other revel in this state of affairs. Others like Robert Potts who write for national newspapers commit the audacious sin of reviewing Conductors of Chaos like any other book. All these writers may be ‘innovative’, but surely they can’t all be the same? Are some good, same bad? Which ones should I read, which ones avoid? And this is the ‘worst model’, ‘of course’, for reading such a book.

This seems to me a model of critical protectionism, springing into action like Bobbie Fischer playing speed chess at the alarming prospect of a closed critical model being thrown open to all-comers. At last, someone who might persuade a reader sated on the latest Armitage or Duffy to tuck into a helping of Peter Riley or Douglas Oliver: at last we can tell this reader how wrong, ‘of course’, this ‘worst model’ of reading is. And now, as Jean du Chas would put it, va t’embêter ailleurs, feck off.

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