Saturday, October 08, 2061

I, Too, Dislike Anthologies

Don Share is the author of a very intense and cutting new book of poems, angry and cerebral, perverse, blunt and far reaching, completely different from most of the current American poetry that's out there. He completely nails the problem with reading poetry anthologies, and why, I have to admit, I haven't read one for a while (and yes there is a sometimes a place there for the genuine in them, but...):

"I was conveying that I don't have much admiration for anthologies, either. It's one thing to discover a Sitwell (or a Graves or a Riding (Jackson) in just the way this thread describes, another to be beset with set pieces! The discussion here actually illustrates the value of real reading and exploration as against the artificial elevation of a poem or poet here or there."

The mention of Robert Graves and Laura Riding here is a reference to the subversive power duo's 1928 Pamphlet Against Anthologies. DS elaborates a little further on his blog.

That's exactly it, Don. And would you believe the work of most Indian English poets is available to the general public, including in India, only as a small set of set pieces in anthologies? What kind of writing would such reading encourage?

I'm thinking, for instance, of Eunice De Souza's first collection, Fix, which I only recently came across in someone's house and read, which I think is an innovative, pretty much flawless and ultimately very dark, ambitious and serious book that, for years, I knew and remembered only by its "funnier" set pieces in anthologies. They were nice, typically sharp and inventive in their language, but didn't necessarily show the larger scope of her work. So often anthologies privilege funnier and more accessible aspects of a poet, presumably to pull a wider public in, but often leaving the anthology as a kind of replacement for the writing itself.

The quote from Don Share above comes itself from a discussion thread at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, notable and exciting for its clash of different (and unpredictable) points of view. Requoted in a piece by Ange Mlinko about the poet as detective.


Space Bar said...

hullo! no idea you were posting!

equivocal said...

Space: only when I have something to say that doesn't easily fit into someone else's comment box.

Space Bar said...

:D yes indeed. will mail you. some things keeping me away from the net...

Falstaff said...

See my response here

These things are important not because some high flown argument can be made for them, but because they are useful.