There's been some horrific communications in "UK Poetry" (a disgusting euphemism), and it's been really difficult for me to read the arguements going back and forth. So much rank apologism forcing to the surface ingrained prejudice and careless, thoughtless social advantage passed off as intellectual sincerity. A piece of writing started circulating that explicitly detailed the actions of a poet in the 'alt lit' scene. A scene I'm not too knowledgeable about. What I can gather is that parts of that scene make a big deal out of creating poetry that unapologetically 'confesses'. The named individual's poetry is explicitly sexist, documenting his emotional pangs for an ex. It's not easy stuff to read through. In fact, it's a mire. This piece started circulating on the UK Poetry email list. There were some fast and dumb reactions. Some very offensive ones. Quickly people became angry, some defensive, scores of feminists abandoned the list. The whole thing started to fall to bits. Though I am aware that the list is still operating.
I've been trying to quantify how I feel about the incident, and what is to be done. The voices of poets like Alison Croggan and Samantha Walton have been extremely important in this dialogue through email discussions etc. I think a lot of us have been trying to work out what to do next, how to actually change and affect the scene. Some things went around that I'll admit worried me. Check lists for 'curators' and people running readings. Head counts etc. This worries me because for many people running nights this head counting would make the people they are trying to include into a quota - 'have I got enough people of colour, women, queers, disabled people at my poetry night?' asks the cis-male editor of some Cambridge journal 'I don't want to look like I don't care'. Also, there was talk about areas of safety. Very important. But there is perhaps a subtext that might move these night to purely affluent areas, away from the tissue (as if most of them aren't already there). Yeah, this checklist worried me. I don't want a bunch of people to be scare of looking like they don't care. I want us to all to realise where our care lacks and alter our priorities accordingly.
I could say a lot. I don't really want to. I've probably already said too much. I just want to share a video of two excellent poets reading a very important piece of work. It springs from a place I wouldn't usually go - Steven Fowler's Camarade fest. I have some strong disagreements with Fowler's curatorial practice - short collaborations one after another, a ready developed aesthetic, little room for maneuver. It all feels a bit branded to me. But I've probably been thinking through a limiting lens. Samantha and Lila's collaboration, in a short space of time, gets to the really uncomfortable and essential questions I think a lot of us have been struggling with, and to air these thoughts in front of a large audience at this point in time is absolutely vital. I really wish I'd been there to see it. The audience laughter feels uncomfortable and contagious, like the studio audience in those David Lynch 'Rabbits' things. How laughter sounds in a cubicle full of radical 3d pointillist graffiti where the boards echo with ache and rebellion and the dots get joined up when the whole room gets flattened.
Thank you Lila, thank you Samantha.