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Monday, January 29, 2007

A Public Calamity

Kevin Higgins writes in Poetry Ireland News of the new-found popularity in Ireland of the poetry slam, and the 'fork in the road up ahead' of Irish poetry, with 'a sign going one way read[ing] "Death in a provincial hotel"', [and] the sign going the other: ‘New life’. I know which way I’m going.'

Leopardi called the practice of poetry readings 'coarse and barbaric'. He wrote:

Today, when everybody can write and when the hardest thing to find is someone who is not an author, this practice has become a scourge, a public calamity, one of life’s newest hardships… In all good conscience, I believe there are very few things that reveal the puerility of human nature and the extreme blindness, indeed stupidity, to which self-love leads a man — and which also reveal the illusions we have about ourselves — as does this business of reciting one’s own writings. For we are all aware of the unspeakable annoyance we feel when listening to someone else’s work. And yet even when an author sees that those he has invited to a reading are terrified, pale with fright, and desperate with excuses, and even when they run and hide from him, still the relentless iron-browed author goes around town seeking and tracking down his prey like a hungry bear. Having caught them, he then leads them to his chosen destination. And during the reading itself, his unhappy audience soon begins to yawn and stretch, twist and turn, giving dozens of signs of their mortal agony — but not for this does he stop, nor does he allow any respite.

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