“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
— Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye
Poetry is more than a body of writings or a typology of forms; first and foremost, it is an evolving set of practices that engage, and are engaged by, the creative work of others …
Poetry, as a highly allusive art form, fundamentally relies on the poet’s ability to quote, to copy, and to “play” with others’ language, and poetry scholars and commentators equally rely on their ability to quote the poetry they are discussing. In fact, poets generally acknowledge that essentially everything they do in their workaday lives, from making their poems to writing about poetry to teaching poetry, builds on the work of others. In the group conversations, poets communicated a general sense that their ability to do their work with confidence was often impeded by institutional regulations based on very straitened interpretations of copyright. They lacked clear guidance as to what material might be available in the public domain. Moreover, they were constrained by their own lack of certainty about what uses are and are not fair within the practices of poetry. While they certainly wish to appropriately control their own work, and to make money where money is to be made, poets also expressed a strong wish to affirm the importance of their ability to make reasonable unlicensed uses of copyrighted material and their support for such uses by others of their own works. In this, the poets both exemplified the tensions inherent in copyright law and the fair use doctrine and heartily endorsed the values undergirding fair use.
Among the 35 people killed in the bomb attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport yesterday was the young playwright Anna Yablonskaya. She was travelling to Moscow from her home town, Odessa, to receive a prize for her most recent play, Pagans.
Anna was one of the leading playwrights of her generation. Born in 1981 in Odessa, she was recognised as one of the new voices of Russian drama: her plays have been performed in theatres across Russia, and she has been nominated for a number of Russian writing prizes. Anna’s work was particularly appreciated in Russia. Like other young Ukrainian writers, she seemed destined to be a prophet without honour, unlikely to see any of her own work performed in Ukraine itself, where the literary managers “cross themselves at the mention of new writing”, as she wrote in a theatre journal last autumn. Odessa was a town full of theatre, she added. “Is it worth,” she asked, “getting upset because we will never manage to force this real-life theatre up on to the actual stage?”
A young poet visits an older poet
who has enjoyed fame and success.
In the street, a plum tree has scattered
its golden fruit all over the pavement.
When it’s over, she’ll come back and fill
her pockets with these Mirabelles.
She leaves the older poet’s house;
night has fallen; she has forgotten
the plums. But the thought of them,
lying so sweet all over the pavement,
comes back to her and she remembers
them every day for the rest of her life.
(Read more poetry samples nominated for the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry on The Guardian here)
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I can see how some people might have liked this book. The writing is interesting as is the narrator’s perspective. But liking it really depends on liking the narrator and I couldn’t stand him. He reminded me of a whinging ex-boyfriend. And so I couldn’t enjoy this book. At all.
Last year, it seemed like everyone was recommending Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn (even though it technically came out in 2009). I almost bought it dozens of times but didn’t. The story of Ellis, at least as presented by Amazon and the copy of the back cover, didn’t speak to me.
Last week, I found an orphaned copy of the book in the lobby of my hotel in Vietnam and it felt like fate was bringing us together. I don’t like it here and have been feeling a bit like a displaced person; the character of Ellis seemed to just appear, when I’d been circling around her for such a long time. I’m not prone to superstition, but as I made my way through the book - devoured it - I couldn’t help but feel like I’d passed it up so many times so that I could find it here, in this perfect moment in time, when I needed something to pull me through the grimy congestion of this place.
Brooklyn was a strange book because even though I loved it and found it immensely readable, I am having a lot of trouble understanding why. The story is simple - more of a sigh than a scream - and the protagonist is so passive about her life that at times she is infuriating. There is something of Jane Austen in Toibin’s writing - an easy way of telling a story about something so simple but with a pace that keeps everything moving forward.
I was also really struck by what Toibin left out. Every time Ellis said goodbye to someone, there seemed to be a hole in the text as though it was too personal or painful to examine. Absence was a theme throughout and he handled it with such subtlety that as I moved forward in the story I felt the curious ache that something was missing and it aligned me with Ellis in a way that transcended the pages of the book.
Throughout the novel it is made clear over and over again that life just happens. We don’t control our destiny so much as it breaks upon us, pulls us along as though in an ocean current. Some swim and some drown and their relative success has very little to do with whether they are good or bad. Life is like the tide - uncontrollable, beautiful,delicate, dangerous and fraught with potential.