Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Robin Skelton's MEMOIRS OF A LITERARY BLOCKHEAD
This memoir was published in 1988, nine years before Robin Skelton's death. It's always a pleasure to read a worthy personal retrospective when the author has the patience and lack of ego to delay a self-starring script long enough to have something to say over a wide life arc. And Memoirs Of A Literary Blockhead is fascinated with others as much as, or more than, the author. Skelton was a natural raconteur, his casual anecdotes reminiscent of a good-natured ear-bender at a pub who's just as concerned and successful at being interesting -- at garnering various reactions -- as he is in entertaining himself. His comic timing is superb, his British wit biting and dry. Meetings with Robert Graves and Ezra Pound punctuate the memories, but there are also delightful excursions into the lunacy of poetry readings where assorted "puddings" (Skelton's favourite word for academic dullards or prole dilletantes) congregate, full portraits of those close to him (with warts but also love), and just enough gossip to reveal surprising peculiarities of well-regarded artists while not so much as to turn those stories into cheap exposition. Skelton wore many hats -- art critic, poetry reviewer, poet, translator, teacher, editor, publisher, scholar -- but he wanted to be remembered primarily for his poetry. More on that in my next post.