Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ludic lines

David Caddy has written an appealing piece on Tom Raworth, drawing connections back to the verbal play of radio programmes such as Much Binding in the Marsh and The Goons. This is a useful insight, although I now fear that I will always hear an inner Neddie Seagoon when reading Raworth. I recall one of John Forbes' titbits of advice to me - he used to visit when I lived not far from him in Carlton - was that one could spot the crap in your own poems if you read them aloud in a silly voice ... he recommended Japanese Science Fiction voices.

Raworth stands in that tradition of 'ludic and literary self-consiousness' which Morrison and Motion picked up on - for them it was primarily manifested in the work of the Martians (or the School comprising English poets with the initials C.R. - the U.S equivalent including Charles Reznikoff and Carl Rakosi is another thing altogether). The somewhat notorious use of the word 'ludic' came after M&M had curiously commented that nothing much had seemed to be happening in England in the 60s and 70s. But of course the playfulness goes back at least as far as those 'proto-ludic' figures, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. Although here of course we do run into the unclearly marked divide between light verse and serious. Oscar Williams' A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry had a separate substantial section at the end for light verse. The anthology was influential if only because Geoffrey Hill's father bought him a copy on a shopping-trip into Birmingham when the young Geoffrey was about fifteen. Hill carried the Little Treasury around Worcestershire in his jacket pocket for years until it disintegrated. At one time he knew by heart every poem in it. Bunting in his seventies carried the Penguin Njal's Saga around in his pocket. An enquiry into poets' jacket pockets through history might prove enlightening.

1 comment:

Jane Holland said...

My pockets won't quite support books, even slim volumes of poetry, but I do have a jute bag with me most days where you might find contemporary gems like Robin Robertson's 'Swithering' or Geoffrey Hill's 'Mercian Hymns'.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, btw. Good to 'meet' you!