Monday, April 13, 2009

There's an interesting perspective on the 'northern poetry renaissance' from Peter Riley, who was very much involved in it at the time. Click here to read. It's interesting that when Aidan Semmens told me he had been good friends with Barry MacSweeney and Ric Caddell, that he saw Bunting read at Morden Tower etc., I remarked that he seemed to have been 'well in' with the Newcastle poetry scene; to which Aidan replied "I never thought of myself as 'well in' with any scene, but looking back I suppose I was in a way", adding that, although he knew MacSweeney well, they "hardly ever talked poetry". That chimes more with real experience, but, those of us who've only read about that era tend to romanticise it somewhat. To people around at the time it probably wasn't that different to the loose associations and sporadic activities we're all involved with now.

8 comments:

John B-R said...

Alan-- I suspect that for some, "scenes" are just normal life, y'know ... and then there are those for whom normal life includes career building, so they name their scenes, Imagism, Vorticism, etc. Career building probably isn't fair. Maybe it's better to say they want to be in history, to influence it ... Of course I'm in a good mood today ... are you in a scene? am !? I mean, I know you, I've been in touch with some of your people, you with some of mine (every word here needs square quotes of course) ... but does that constitute a scene? Maybe we should give it a name ... I've just been struck by a line by Lisa Robertson: "clots of rubbish washed up on shore become us." Maybe we're the "Clots of Rubbish" scene ...

John B-R said...

square quotes = scare quotes etc.

Oh, and one mroe thing re scenes: Ted Berrigan use to offer "New York School" membership cards to anyone who would give him money. Apparently he had no takers. I dunno why. (I mean, it would be so cool to have a membership card signed by TB saying I was a member of the NY School.

Maybe we "Clots of Rubbish", if you accept the label, ought to offer membership cards ...

someday someone cd sell em on ebay and retire ...

Ed Baker said...

hey..

y'all Brits know Jeremy Prynne?

of course you do!

he was around here (U of Md and D.c. for a time long about 1965 or 66 or 67

read some things via Rudd Flemming's invite to our "poetry" scene


then on my jaunt around
Yerup/Greece/Hingeland 1968-1971 I just had to "pop" in on campuses of Oxford and Cambridge... two entirely different "animals" he (J.Prynne was teaching at one of them

so,

I getz "back" and get into Hopkins and who should/did
"show-up" Jeremy this time via Eliott Coleman's invite..

talked a bit about Charles Olson (and many other 'vant guard s) and

well "obscurity" etc..

never did I find JP's writing "obscure" what I seem to recall was his "P O W" of the line and the language...

almost like he was painting on the page...

at least in (my) mind

but, this is from memory...

where I confuse specific dates in time and place with eras in decades of periodocities


but, bottom line: in those daze we mostly talked of the girls around town..and sometimes to/with them.

Alan Baker said...

Ed: so you've met The Mighty Prynne? He has developed a mystique over here due to his refusal to read in public or to have his picture published. Of course he was a follower of Olson's in his early days. I like you description of his work - "his "P O W" of the line and the language... almost like he was painting on the page..." which is maybe an impression got from hearing rather than reading? We had a discussion of Prynne a while ago, click here (you have to start reading from the bottom).

"Mostly talking about girls" chimes with Aidan Semmens and MacSweeney mostly talking about football.

John, I love the story about Berrigan's membership cards: truth is, I'd have bought one, as I like the idea of being part of a "scene".

Ed Baker said...

to me
his shifts without any warning
were (are) pure/magic...

what is it that Yeats said:

"don't be a magician, be magic"


(I suppose) writing poetry demands an unconscious mastery of the language....as (my) Stone Girl implores/implies/insists upon,,

that, almost prelinguistic feel/posture that...

well you finish this

it s stopped raining so
I am gonna walk up to the county lickher store and buy a pint-or-six of Black Sheep.

AidanSemmens said...

Fascinating article by Peter Riley, which stirs all sorts of memories and conflicting feelings for me. I actually never knew of the Sparty Lea gathering - in either Barry's or Peter's versions (and I'm much more inclined to believe Peter than Barry, on this or anything else) - but at one time or another I've known, or at least met, most of the dramatis personae. (Bizarrely, and irrelevantly, I also had a friend, with no poetry connection, who later lived at Sparty Lea, which is a tiny and cut-off place.)
When you consider Peter's piece as a commentary on the whole notion of a "scene" it does make you wonder (none too hard) about what Prynne and MacSweeney were each up to. Barry and the Pickards certainly worked very hard to build up the notion of a "northern scene" - which I came to very late and never felt part of. Similarly, despite my co-editorship of Perfect Bound and my year as chairman of the Cambridge Poetry Society (hon pres JH Prynne), I always felt like a semi-detached latecomer to the Cambridge "scene": which may, of course, say more about me than anyone else...

Alan Baker said...

Aidan, you say "I always felt like a semi-detached latecomer to the Cambridge 'scene'". "Scenes" often seem to have one or more revered 'elders', or hark back to an ideal when the group was formed. Not unlike religions in a way.

AidanSemmens said...

Interesting point, Alan - I can see the religion analogy very clearly. Perhaps I shouldn't be so reticent about commenting on or "describing" the scenes I just missed - after all, it worked for the evangelists. Although I'm pretty sure that Jeremy Prynne does actually exist... ;-)