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How Listening Pays Off


Having lauded Fiona Sampson’s Guardian Unlimited workshop (which I have failed to complete), I thought I should mention her choice of the resulting poems. It forms a nice little compendium of significantly different approaches to the practice of listening–a clear demonstration that the workshop exercise is a good one, I think. There’s much to learn from this.

I must pay more attention to future Guardian workshops. I’ve often glanced at them before, but never actually tried them out or read the results with anything more than cursory attention. Shame on me!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Background Artist permalink
    24/07/2007 21:33

    Sampson’s dissection of the poems she chose was incredibly boring and univentive, revealing no insight or greater truths of lanuage.

    The poetry she seeks to speak of, yet has not the skill to promote, flits, communing on another dimension of intelligence with a remote and aurally enobling mind and is – for some – a somewhat frightening sort intellectually, routing to Yeats.

    A unique, silent poesy one hears within, controlled by a higher power, the personae of tweed in a fishermans grey eye and white of Olwengin river, the jagged green grass at the base of Maumturk and grim blue sky above Na Beanna Beola.

    A pre-verbal force. The eye of calm and central roar of one’s highest inner self. Thus she would spake, in detached utterance, revealing as much as is concealed.

    But as a critical poetic persona, in her role as editor of the poetry rag she tried to write the workshop spiel as if she is some kind of otherworldly goddess, drawing light from the deepest valency of language, but failing and representitive of all that is wrong with the ailing state, the bedraggled and confused mutt and mungrel of British verse.

    You may have noticed her stoney wax mugshot, the slight curl of tightly stretched lips and an aura of silence, which betrays not gravitas but the vacuousity of a morbid depressing hack with no poetic depth.

    Her sleepwalk through the few she chose, was like reading an gcse literature paper, riddled with cliche and pedestrian prose, much like the entries she selected, kinked conversational prose bluffed up in the pathetic attempt to pass them of as the work of people who know what verse is all about.

    She is still hovering at the first of the three levels of poetic skill and awareness Heaney outlines in his essay on Plath’s poetry. Making clumsy owl calls into the woods that don’t fool the real thing.

    Where’s the bleddy humour with the supposed top pros?

    They are just plain bores, born dull by the looks of it, certainly an amatuer deluding herself she is a pro.

    Any nation that holds up infant school jobber ian macmillan as the height and mirror of its poetic culture, cannot be taken seriously by the real verse-smiths.

    Sack the useless talentless gits i say.

  2. Andrew Philip permalink
    27/07/2007 14:32

    Who’s been holding up Ian Macmillan as the height of poetry in what nation? Certainly not me. I’m an avid listener of The Verb, but that’s another matter entirely.

    Can’t really comment on Sampson’s own poetry, as I haven’t read any of her collections. Though I wasn’t impressed with “Messiaen’s Piano”. Nonetheless, I found her workshop exercise opening my ears afresh and stimulating my thinking about possible different approaches to writing–different from my normal tack and from what she was proposing in the workshop.

    Which “supposed top pros” do you mean? The implication of your criticism is that they should all be humorous, but why? Is nobody allowed to be serious?

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