Friday, September 3, 2010
I've been inolved with an interesting discussion on Steven Waling's blog, Brando's Hat, which started on Todd Swift's blog, specifically, on his post on Seamus Heaney, quoted below. Waling asked the question "[why do] different people ... appreciate different things". The discussion then revolved around why some people prefer innovative poetry, others more conventional poetry. I was accused by Steven of thinking myself "better than" readers of mainstream poetry because I said that enjoyment of innovative / experimental / avant-garde type poetry was a sign of increasing reader sophistication. I stand by that position, and I don't think it implies a value-judgement. I argued that innovative poetry vs conventional poetry was analagous to modern jazz vs standard pop music. some things are an acquired taste, and to acquire a taste is to become more sophisticated. An appreciation of standard pop music doesn't need to be acquired, as it's the dominant form in our culture; we absorb it from an early age. For the same reason, one could argue, an appreciation of more conventional poetry, such as Heaney's also doesn't need to be acquired; that doesn't mean it's better or worse, just that it's the dominant form. I don't know whether my argument is right, but it's an interesting line of thought. Maybe the best way to appreciate any poetry is to approach it with a completely open mind. That's difficult to do, of course, but we need to try. Maybe afficionados of innovative poetry (or, in Andrew Duncan's phrase, "art poetry") - and I include myself here - may have to re-acquire the taste for more conventional poetry to perhaps discover insights they didn't realise were there.