Sunday, May 21, 2006

An Act of Class?

Reading this review, I was struck by the American reviewer's incomprehension of "the dichotomy ... of accessibility vs difficulty" (an incomprehension I share to a great extent, as you might know if you've read my post on Geoffrey Hill). I was set to wondering what it is that makes this tribalism so British. It's not as though American poetry isn't riven by its own tribalisms--it seems to have a barrelload of them--so why was it unfamiliar to Mr Schwabsky? Then it struck me: could it be that class, that perennial British obsession, is at the root?

What think you?


Barry Schwabsky said...

US poetry has its tribalisms, and how!--but it does seem far less polarized today than the UK scene. Our tribes have more of a live-and-let-live attitude toward each other.

As for the question of class: Yes, probably this distinction between those who appreciate "difficult" poetry vs. those who like "accessible" poetry might well boil down to a class distinction but how would that play out? It's not that upper class people like difficulty and working class people like accessibility or vice versa. All classes commune in their shared detestation of any sort of poetry, easy or hard.

Andrew Philip said...

Delighted to have your oar in on this, and it's a good question you ask. I must confess I hadn't developed any thoughts as to how it would play out, although I agree that any correlation would not be straightforward. After all, in addition to what you point out about the general attitude to poetry, the backgrounds and concerns of "difficult" poets are far from necessarily upper or even middle class.

Perhaps this requires not only more thought, but genuine research.

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