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 Paterson wins Forward
C.J.Underwood
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 08:29 AM


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Not entirely surprising to be honest.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/oct/0...-forward-poetry

Thoughts, comments, suggestions?


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rmk
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 08:34 AM


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Sorry, CJ. I crossposted with you and also started a thread. I'll add my post below. Jane, could you delete the thread I started on it - thanks!

*

Well, two Faber books win Best Collection and Best First Collection. The Best Poem category is won by the editor at Cape who is published by Picador, where the poetry editor is the winner of the Best Collection.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting a idiotic conspiracy theory. Nor am I keen to slag off Don Paterson's book the way some people will be readying themselves to - I like his poetry. It's just that, despite much talk of how the small presses were well represented in the Forward anthology, the prizes have been shared out among the major trade presses. Indeed, I guess that representation in the anthology taken as a percentage of output, would probably reinforce the power of the big three. The scattering of poems from small presses is good, but it's as if they've been invited to a rich banquet and then not actually been served anything beyond the antipasti.

The main shortlist was all big names, and the Best Poem list was dominated by them. Bloodaxe and Carcanet had nothing on either shortlist. Salt had one book on the Best First Collection. Faber walked both. The word on the judges' lips in the press releases yesterday evening was 'serious'. Perhaps that was my imagination (I'll have to take another look today), but they seemed to keep using that word to praise the choices they had made.

Not sure whether this is even worth discussing. It's simply the choices of a certain group of judges and may not represent a trend any more than Jen Hadfield's TS Eliot win represented a trend. I may have been too negative in my analysis. I am a born pessimist at the best of times.


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Jane Holland
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 08:38 AM


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Sewn up.

You know the obvious argument about the major presses always winning all the prizes - well, they do publish the best poetry. Unfortunately, this simply isn't true - because it isn't possible for it to be true in an art medium where subjectivity of response reigns.

I notice how Alison Flood - or her editor - considers this 'one of the strongest poetry shortlists in years', presumably because there weren't any of those horrid little interlopers mooching about on it, only major poetry publishers.

Is 'serious' the new byword for mainstream?


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'CAMPER VAN BLUES' from Salt.

Raw Light blog or home page.

New poem-in-progress 'Adventure Sky!' at Stride.
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Tom Chivers
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 11:59 AM


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Not keen on slagging people off, and subjectivity is after all the name of the game but I am disappointed by the conservative choices this year round.


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Tom Chivers
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 12:18 PM


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Just to add, Josephine Hart's (Chair of Judges) brief comments on the winning book that appear in The Guardian today include the following words:

serious
authority
mastery
genius

Revealing, I think.


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KEB
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 02:17 PM


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QUOTE (rmk @ Oct 8 2009, 08:34 AM)
Well, two Faber books win Best Collection and Best First Collection. The Best Poem category is won by the editor at Cape who is published by Picador, where the poetry editor is the winner of the Best Collection.

Neatly put, Rob. And is it not a full set of Forwards for each of them?

I don't think Christopher Reid was such a "Serious" choice, though of course his book is serious in subject. And, published by Areté, it's small press, too. But I'd have loved some really more surprising (not like Olds was surprising) choices on the list. I think the two winners do sort of seem to claim some high ground on a particular kind of Seriousness, of cours,e if that's your bag; one could almost say they do that by never smiling... and I think that is very much the bag of at least one of the judges.

Tom, thanks for making that list of words. I'll counter with some that aren't on it:

creativity
refreshing
modesty
open field
new
unusual
unexpected


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Matt
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 02:28 PM


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Yes, I find myself in total agreement with what Katy, Tom and Rob have said. Just disappointing, really. I don't believe in any conspiracies, but it does rather feel as though the judges set out determined to find a particular kind of poet/collection/poem, and discounted everything else. But I suppose I'd have like to have seen a bit more imagination in the shortlists, to start with.

I think Rob may have mentioned this somewhere already, too, but one of the individual poems (not the winner) struck me as really pretty weak.
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Jane Holland
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 03:40 PM


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QUOTE (Tom Chivers @ Oct 8 2009, 12:18 PM)

serious
authority
mastery
genius

Revealing, I think.

Of what? Sorry, you have to be more transparent with me. Think of an idiot, and double it. I can see how 'serious' might be an unfortunate choice, but the others are kind of what you might expect the judges to say.

Though 'genius' is pushing it somewhat. You need to wait several centuries before you can call any poet a genius with conviction.


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'CAMPER VAN BLUES' from Salt.

Raw Light blog or home page.

New poem-in-progress 'Adventure Sky!' at Stride.
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Jane Holland
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 03:44 PM


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QUOTE (KEB @ Oct 8 2009, 02:17 PM)
one could almost say they do that by never smiling...

And one would be right. dry.gif


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'CAMPER VAN BLUES' from Salt.

Raw Light blog or home page.

New poem-in-progress 'Adventure Sky!' at Stride.
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Tom Chivers
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 03:58 PM


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QUOTE (Jane Holland @ Oct 8 2009, 03:40 PM)
QUOTE (Tom Chivers @ Oct 8 2009, 12:18 PM)

serious
authority
mastery
genius

Revealing, I think.


I can see how 'serious' might be an unfortunate choice, but the others are kind of what you might expect the judges to say.

You're right - it is what you'd expect the judges to say. I just think that what poetry sometimes lacks is wit and a letting-go of authority/control. Descriptions of poetry as 'serious' and 'masterful' seem to reinforce the primacy of the 'well-made poem' n all that. I might be reading too much into it, though. And anyway, I'm usually on the raw side of the argument. Taste innit.


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mgranier
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 08:29 PM


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QUOTE
(Tom Chivers)
I just think that what poetry sometimes lacks is wit and a letting-go of authority/control.


Of course, you have to gain the authority before you can let go of it, and it seems to me that there is a whole Highway 61-full of poets/writers who are busy tearing in the opposite direction, though I'm sure they believe they are wonderfully witty, and perhaps they are. Paterson can also be witty at times. So can Nabokov, as in this interview for The Paris Review:

Interviewer (Plimpton):
E. M. Forster speaks of his major characters sometimes
taking over and dictating the course of his novels. Has this
ever been a problem for you, or are you in complete command?

Nabokov:
My knowledge of Mr. Forster's works is limited to one
novel which I dislike; and anyway it was not he who fathered
that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand;
it is as old as the quills, although of course one sympathizes
with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip
to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley
slaves.


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Jane Holland
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 08:48 PM


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What such very conservative poetry shortlists are ultimately looking to achieve is a solidifying - and I use the word deliberately - of the status quo. It looks like authority in its early stages, and large groups of people love authority - in the absence of something more authoritative, or even in the face of it, people will cling to any established authority long after it has outlived its relevance, finding it a source of inspiration.

But then, gradually, that authority begins to look oppressive. It is too familiar to be entirely trustworthy. So we start to look elsewhere for inspiration. At that point, the ancien regime has no choice but to clamp down on dissent or any turning-away of the faithful. It organises itself so that we, as a group, are made to look appreciative of the established authorities. Shortlists are drawn up, poets lauded; a certain standard is spoken of (i.e. a standard which is lacking in other work), an 'authority', even a 'genius'. But there is no countering the fact that tides turn, people begin to ask questions, and authority eventually passes out of their hands.

The only way out is for the purveyors of authority to change. And that ain't never gonna happen.

I should perhaps add that I have enjoyed reading Paterson's Rain. It's a good, solid, well-written collection. But I don't have any sense that it's a great collection. It doesn't excite me. It doesn't break boundaries. And I for one would like a Forward Prize-winning book to at least go some way towards that.


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'CAMPER VAN BLUES' from Salt.

Raw Light blog or home page.

New poem-in-progress 'Adventure Sky!' at Stride.
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DavidFloyd
Posted: Oct 8 2009, 10:06 PM


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There was some interesting stuff in the Forward anthology this year.

In terms of the big prizes, I've got nothing to say that hasn't already been said above.


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Steven Waling
Posted: Oct 9 2009, 10:37 AM


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QUOTE
Of course, you have to gain the authority before you can let go of it,


And how, precisely, do you "gain the authority"? By becoming a member of the establishment and then rebelling? But why would anyone want to do that? If you're part of the establishment, you're not going to rock the very comfortable boat are you?


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www.stevenwaling.blogspot.com
"The very existence of poetry should make us laugh. What is it all about? What is it for?"
--Kenneth Koch
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Steven Waling
Posted: Oct 9 2009, 11:23 AM


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serious - so that rules out Wendy Cope & Ian MacMillan as usual. Or anyone else with a sense of humour, presumably
authority - what does that even mean anyway? The ability to drill your poems into little boxes and tell others how to do it?
mastery - any poet who's totally in control of what they do will tend to produce something safe and within already established boundaries. Not that a poet should leave everything to chance, but that there should at least be some sense of walking an edge where they might just fall off. If I didn't feel I was at least taking my writing somewhere it hadn't gone before I'd just get bored.
genius - not a word I'd use of anybody less than 250 years old.


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www.stevenwaling.blogspot.com
"The very existence of poetry should make us laugh. What is it all about? What is it for?"
--Kenneth Koch
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Rik Roots
Posted: Oct 9 2009, 12:15 PM


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QUOTE (Steven Waling @ Oct 9 2009, 11:23 AM)
serious - so that rules out Wendy Cope & Ian MacMillan as usual. Or anyone else with a sense of humour, presumably

I'm wondering about the word serious, too. Is this a professional vs hobbyist distinction? Or ponderous vs humourous? Big stuff vs daily trivia? Authoratative status vs peripheral status? Headline vs footnote? Canonical vs ephemeral? Elitism vs populism?

Questions, questions ...


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To Posterity - the latest poetry chapbook from Rik Roots
The RikVerse - publications
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mgranier
Posted: Oct 9 2009, 11:51 PM


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QUOTE
(Steven Waling)
And how, precisely, do you "gain the authority"? By becoming a member of the establishment and then rebelling? But why would anyone want to do that? If you're part of the establishment, you're not going to rock the very comfortable boat are you?


Of course, authority can only mean 'Establishment'. As for rebels rocking comfortable boats etc. etc. etc. etc.etc. .... I think I agree with my cat on this one:

user posted image
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Chris Hamilton-Emery
Posted: Oct 10 2009, 06:42 AM


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I had a business meeting before the Forwards to talk about our developing Irish list and one thing that came up there was whether the English establishment was locking out reception of Irish writers. It was an interesting supposition.


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Steven Waling
Posted: Oct 10 2009, 10:05 AM


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QUOTE
Of course, authority can only mean 'Establishment'.


Yes, it probably does mean things other than that. But if everybody is writing little box poetry and you're writing open-form poetry or long-lined discursive or bardic poetry, how do you gain your own authority?

The punk in me has always disliked the word "authority." Reminds me too much of teachers, preachers and politicians, and the kind of taste-makers that decided that we had to spend the '70's listening to either the Osmonds and the Rubettes, or Pink Floyd and Yes.


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www.stevenwaling.blogspot.com
"The very existence of poetry should make us laugh. What is it all about? What is it for?"
--Kenneth Koch
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Andrew Philip
Posted: Oct 10 2009, 10:46 AM


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QUOTE (Steven Waling @ Oct 10 2009, 10:05 AM)
The punk in me has always disliked the word "authority." Reminds me too much of teachers, preachers and politicians, and the kind of taste-makers that decided that we had to spend the '70's listening to either the Osmonds and the Rubettes, or Pink Floyd and Yes.

Does this mean we should all be the owners of a lonely art?


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