Saturday 6 December 2014

The Long Game

To love poetry, argues Michael Hofmann, means reading less of it:  
I think poetry is always one or two poets away from extinction anyway. If it’s any comfort, it’s not a living tradition—it doesn’t depend on being passed from hand to hand. It could easily go underground for a couple of decades, or a couple of centuries, and then return. People disappear, or never really existed at all, and then come back—Propertius, Hölderlin, Dickinson, Büchner, Smart. Poetry is much more about remaking or realigning the past than it is about charting the contemporary scene. It’s a long game. Also, it’s not about extent, never about extent, not about numbers or range or choice. It’s not a supermarket. You can’t roam around, and read x on one day, and a the second, and b the third, not if you have taste and take it with you everywhere. It’s a condition of poetry that you can’t read everyone. What is it Lowell’s Harriet says— “You can’t love everyone—your heart won’t let you.” It’s about depth, and what you find in it. The question isn’t, Who would I like to read now for the first time? It’s, I have these six poets. I must have read them all a hundred times. They’re just about all I read—it’s years since I read anyone else. Which of them do I feel like reading for the hundred-and-first? Whose books do you wait for? That’s the question. Precious few.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this lad needs stint on desert island, all on his tod for decade with his six pack of authors. He'll find out right bluddy quick how essential variety is. meself I like a mixed tin of biscuits.