Friday 15 May 2015

Inverse Snobbery

Steven Heighton tries to put Al Purdy's legacy in perspective:
For me, unlike some young male poets, it wasn’t hard to resist imitating Al’s voice, syntax, and signature mannerisms, partly because I’d already found other acoustical models, other musics, that better suited my sense of rhythm and tune: poets such as Dylan Thomas, G. M. Hopkins, Sylvia Plath, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Wilfred Owen, and P.K. Page—all in their diverse ways great acoustical technicians. Plainspokenness didn’t appeal to me. It bored me. And I felt that some of my Canadian male peers, who were trying to imitate Al’s seemingly plain voice, were really just caving in to good old North American anti-intellectualism – the fear of seeming unmanly, fussy, heady, elitist, European. I sensed something spurious in their embrace and veneration of the demotic and colloquial. I thought it a kind of inverse snobbery. When Al invented himself, he had good reason to react against the Edwardian models he’d encountered in school—and at the same time to find a voice that squared with his own background, class, and autodidacticism. But his middle-class, college-educated acolytes were not forging a voice under the same urgent, and solitary, pressures. They were just mimicking.


Rhea Tregebov said...

Oooh, awesome, Steven. Appreciate your frankness, I've been waiting a long time to hear someone give us the straight goods on this one!

Carmelo Militano said...

Yes, Steven nailed it. Purdy's model was also a way out of the weight and snobbery of Europe and perhaps even knowledge of poetic traditions. Plain spoken poetry suggests their is no mask-transparency- and ah shucks everyone can be a poet with out too much effort. But, of course, on both counts there is a mask.