I read a couple of ‘poems’ in a daily newspaper today. Poems appearing in newspapers should be cause for celebration but, as always, it caused me despair. Below you will find the two poems: Freehold by Theodore Eli and Her Late Hand by Jaya Savige, as well as an extract from Sarah Holland-Blatt’s breathless take on it as a critic, indicating that she is in on, and has become one with, the joke.
I use the term ‘the joke’ as a parallel to police corruption in Queensland some time ago. ‘The Joke was a system of protection payments that flowed from brothel owners, SP bookies and illegal gaming operators into the hands of corrupt police.’ I am not suggesting corruption in the world of poetry but it certainly has all the trappings of a protection racket.
It would seem that those that Ern Malley lampooned will never die. Once again we were served up images that I would defy the author to elucidate upon (‘the moon’s thawing rind’, ‘sheer weight mows sun into avenues’) and lines broken up randomly to deny any sense of rhythm or metre. (Perhaps these are the same people who are judging the ever more politically correct Archibald Prize for portraiture into oblivion.)
Spare me the ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ stuff. I prefer the ‘if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck’. Nothing can disguise a complete inability to artistically communicate with the average educated adult who remembers when poetry meant something to them. But, like the con job that is ‘cool’ jazz, it would appear no-one in academia or literary criticism is prepared to name and shame these naked emperors.
As a result, the reading public is left with the impression that poetry, as they understood it, is dead and that people who write and/or perform ‘poetry’ are as irrelevant as people who churn their own butter and probably senile into the bargain. No wonder young people have welcomed with open arms ‘I’ll make it rhyme if it kills me’ rap songs and their bastard off-spring, slam poetry.
I think the Nobel Literature Prize judging panel made an inspired choice in Bob Dylan. I saw it as a cry to the world from the heart, a last stand against gobbledygook parading as art and a celebration of imagery and words that will speak to generations to come, of a time when there was magic in meaning.