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Thursday, September 06, 2007


I’d like to coin the term ‘credentialism’ for a certain style of poetry reviewing. The writer is introducing the latest book by ‘honoured and empty-headed’ (Yeats’s phrase for the elderly Wordsworth) (insert poet of choice’s name here), and begins by saying ‘Winner of the X, Y and Z prizes, distinguished professor at... holder of the...’

Transpose the phrasing, with appropriate period adjustments, into Eliot’s early reviews, or Johnson’s Lives of the Poets. Go ahead, try it.

Let us agree, collectively, not to give the most constipated of stools whether someone has or hasn’t won a prize, is the Should Know Better Professor of Blatherskite, or has just won an Emphatically Doesn’t Know Better Fellowship from the Balnibarbi Academy.

This kind of writing may be something, but it is not criticism. Don’t buy it. Throw it on the scrapheap where it belongs.

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