Douglas Clark: Waffle -- 1

Marjorie Perloff has published an article (PN Review, 115, May-June 1997) where she argues that poetry has become too difficult for the poets and that thoughts on poetry should be left to the academics. She says that you wont get any commonsense on poetry out of a poet and that you have to go to an intellectual to clarify matters. This being from a woman who promotes the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets which is strictly a poetry written by non-poets.

This brings us to the question whether poets are born or made. The truth is that it is the combination of hard work with the initial spark, but the basic hunting for words is something that you are born with. It comes out of a deep internal emptiness that must be satisfied.

The most natural poetry is the simple lyric and if a poet cant write that then he/she might as well go home. It is the bread and butter of poetry. The singing line. There are very few genuine poets. Most poetry nowadays is cut-up prose. A few verse paragraphs strung together without rhythm or feeling.

Academics in this age after Derrida will not make value judgments on texts. A laundry list is as useful to them as a poem. All they want is words. Quality evaluation is a thing of the past. The great critics in English have always been poets able to make their own value judgments according to texts written and read by themselves. Ergo there are now no great critics. Just a lot of brass monkeys out to make a name for themselves.

But Germaine Greer in her latest book (Slip-shod Sybils, Penguin, 1996) dares to make value judgments on women poets and has been roundly scolded for it. She says that the reason there have been only half-a-dozen great women poets is because there have in history been only half-a-dozen great women poets. (William Oxley reminds me that Kathleen Raine has been saying this for years.) This desperate publication of every scrap of verse written by women over the centuries to try and elevate their writing to comparison with the men is a wild goose chase. Women havent been interested in that sort of immortality. Germaine Greer is a throwback, being Australian.

That noted American critic Harold Bloom took on the deconstructionists in his last book (The Western Canon, Harcourt Brace, 1994) by supplying a list of Great Books. This sort of thing is not done anymore. And George Steiner sees himself as being one of the last mandarins of the old-style aesthetic criticism.