Friday, April 18, 2008

Brian Fawcett (Cont'd)

(Continued from yesterday)

"I allowed that I was intellectually embarrassed by the lack of rigor in contemporary verse manufacture, including my own, and that I wanted to do a kind of writing that had some degree of affective influence on things, indirect or direct. Until I could produce the kind of verse in which the investigative rather than the self-revelatory elements were in the forefront, I’d desist from further public waste of paper and public attention and would inflict no more unwanted poesy on sleepy audiences."--Brian Fawcett

This is staggering in its naivety of how ideas are accorded respect, if not seminal stature, amongst individuals, never mind "society at large". So many things to say. Where to start ....

The self-described "subtle and technically elaborate lyrical poems" of his have now been endowed with a "lack of rigor". Is he separating form and content completely here (if that were even possible, as a misinformed basis for discussion)? Is he positing that form is irrelevant, and that prosaic content is all that matters? Because from previous enthusiasms, and his take on what sells (oops, I mean what the public is tuned into), a "message" or cultural, wordy and worldly, dialogue is what he's after and into. What is this "investigative" verse he mentions? Vague, either disingenous in setting out, or in honest confusion of how to go about it. But it's clear he has a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes worthy verse, never mind lasting poetry. If Fawcett wants to do "investigative" writing, fine. But call it what it is: journalism.

He even states it more plainly: "I wanted to do a kind of writing that had some degree of effective influence on things, indirect or direct". I stare at that statement with incredulity. What does "influencing" people mean? Is it setting forth an overt political statement? Exposing certain cultural misdeeds? Reportage of social injustice? All worthy endeavours if done in the right spirit, and with a high level of accomplished writing. But that is only one level of influence. Another level is much more subtle, fundamental, and powerful. It is the kind of core "influence" which sets the tone for what he lauds, which is mere opinion based on fact-gathering, acknowledgment of newsworthy shifts, and because it can't be objectively, effectively, and accurately measured, Fawcett has little patience for it (even if he admits, or is aware, of its importance, not entirely a given).

Poetry operates on this more subtle and powerful "statement". It's often oblique, ambivalent, ambiguous, complex, metaphorical, suggestive, allusive, allegorical, and open-ended. It often has no pretention or intention of "making a statement". Often, the author is not even clear on a definitive "meaning". And that's just fine. But Fawcett is not only impatient with this approach: he is also dismissive of it, despite his obligatory high-toned "defense" of poetry.

The "sleepy audiences" Fawcett notes at his readings happen for many reasons he doesn't seem to imagine. As noted before, maybe the audience is uninterested in HIS poetry, but enamoured of poetry in general. After all, the audience for it is small, and there's little cultural "buzz" or selling of it to convince the marketable masses, so many of those who venture out to readings must already have some pull towards poetry, even if not aware of Fawcett's own work. And if they are aware of him, perhaps a few actually do like his poetry somewhat. Is it possible that he's unaware of how interest, if not wild desire, works? I've already mentioned how I was taken by my first experience of his reading the butterfly/Congo poem. Subsequently, I found the poems wanting, but the opposite is also often the case: a reader may appear to be sleeping, and then be awakened in his actual sleep later that night by a line he or she heard from the poet, and then proceed to investigate the work further. "Sleeping" can be a direct compliment, at times: one can be heavily caught up, rapt with fascination, with the present altered world that the poet is creating. It appears as if that one is "uninterested" when the opposite is true.

I suppose it all comes down to book sales. Fawcett finally wised up, and found out that, with the anomalies of a few crossover "stars" in other genres, ALL poetry sells little in this country. He even states a major reason for it: the lyrical approach has been supplanted by the exponential distractions of modern culture. Whereas the highly discernible see this as a further reason for the worthiness of good poetry, Fawcett throws up his hands and joins the other camp, all the while wanting to regurgitate the cake and eat it again by defending a confused sort of "artistic" alternate approach to tap into the shrinking attention spans of the "marketplace". Bah.


(cont'd again later)

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