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Barry Schwabsky

in response to a review of Tom Raworth in which the reviewer argues that so-called difficult poetry is anti-capitalist and difficult "modernist' poetry carries more political weight than the movement/mainstream poetry in the UK with its easily summarised themes and conversational speech and so on . . ..the old language school argument . . . and of course modernism consists of more than so called high modernism . . . i don't want to choose between difficult or accessible . . . . there are many kinds of interesting art . . . nice response from Barry


either "accessible" nor "difficult" is a quality with inherent aesthetic value--that is, to state what I hope is obvious, there are good and bad "accessible" works just as there are good and bad "difficult" works (though there might be pleasures that are specific to difficult works that are unobtainable through accessible ones and vice versa). So to speak of accessibility or difficulty as either in themselves laudable or not is really barking up the wrong tree, like having an argument about whether marble sculptures are better than steel, or sonatas in minor keys are better than those in major keys, or landscape paintings are better than still lifes. It's taking a descriptive quality that only takes on aesthetic significance within the total complex of a given work as if it had some absolute value in itself.

Comments

Joe Kennedy said…
Sorry to interrupt, but I feel I should point out that at no point in that review did I suggest that 'difficult'/ 'late modernist'/ 'language school' poetry is inherently 'anti-capitalist', nor did I set out to be proscriptive about poetry which is readily accessible. Largely, the point was to show how Raworth (alongside Prynne, in particular) has historically been presented as perniciously, and capriciously, difficult by a number of people seeking to perpetuate the 'difficulty for its own sake' argument; I don't happen to think that Raworth is inaccessible at all, just that - as the citation you've made points out - that he requires us to reframe our terms when we talk about difficulty and accessibility.

Sorry if this doesn't make sense: I'm just up, and the brain isn't quite firing yet...
postpran said…
Hi Joe,

thanks for clarifying. My brain is also firing slowly in this Turkish heat :-) I should have read your review more carefully. Yes indeed . . . . well said . . . . Raworth does require us to reframe our terms of difficulty and accessibility if we want to use those frames of course :-)

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