Helen Guri's analysis of Jason Guriel's review of Alice Oswald's Memorial continues to dominate discussion online. Stewart Cole weighs in.
Guri has not shown convincingly that the implications she highlights in Guriel’s review are anything more than emanations of her own ingenuity. Those who want to bask in those emanations will presumably continue to do so, meanwhile ignoring and/or misrepresenting (as Guri does) the considerable descriptive and analytical work performed by reviews like Guriel’s. This is not to deny that the literary world in Canada and everywhere is fundamentally patriarchal (as our societies are) and that this fact should be railed against. I think it’s entirely probable that Guriel derives his pose of authority (and I mine in writing this) from a sense of white male privilege to which we are so firmly acculturated as to be almost oblivious. But I do not think it at all helpful to misrepresent his or anyone’s critical efforts so (and yes I do stand behind this) violently. Most basically, I would rather have seen the poet-critic Helen Guri use her evident talents to actually review one of the “too-large proportion” of books she loves that “don’t get their due in the public sphere.” But again, this comes from me thinking that the biggest problem in Canadian poetry culture is lack of discourse—especially lack of discourse on more than a handful of books per season—not the tenor of it. On the other hand, I’m utterly glad that Guri wrote what she did; as much I’ve found to disagree with in it, there’s no denying that it set me thinking (and writing!) unlike anything I’ve encountered in recent months.