Thursday, March 20, 2008

North 41 - and blabbing

The North 41 has arrived - I've always liked their 'blind criticism' section, in the spirit of Zukofsky's A Test For Poetry - and on a quick skim through I noticed a few poems - such as Catherine Smith's 'Picnic' which is about sex in somebody's office followed by a raid on the staff fridge - which put me in mind of Hugo Williams' essay where he contrasts Bly's concept of 'Leaping' poetry with a sort of confessional 'Blabbing' ... the word comes from Patrick Kavanagh's Self-Portrait:

"What seems of public importance is never of any importance. Stupid poets and artists think that by taking subjects of public importance it will help their work to survive. There is nothing as dead and damned as an important thing. The things that really matter are casual, insignificant little things, things you would be ashamed to talk of publicly. You are ashamed and then after years someone blabs and you find you are in the secret majority." - Kavanagh

'Blabbing' it seems equates to the "rather shameful" "personal confidences" that M. L. Rosenthal found is his review of Life Studies. This approach is presumably underwritten by the idea - expressed once by Martin Amis - that the writer hopes that the particular will turn out to be universal.

Smith's 'Picnic' juxtaposes sex pressed up against a manager's in-tray with a memory of a child's first picnic. Andrew Motion once said something about leaning two things up against each other and seeing what happens. As formulae go, it's a good one.

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