Quite the controversy going on in London literary circles at the moment, occasioned by the poet Alice Oswalds’ withdrawal of her collection, Memorial, from consideration for the TS Eliot prize.
Here is Oswald’s explanation, relevant not just for poets but for all who want to create anything that puts principle before profit.
“For me, poetry is the great unsettler. It questions the established order of the mind. It is radical, by which I don’t mean that it is either leftwing or rightwing, but that it works at the roots of thinking.
“It goes lower than rhetoric, lower than conversation, lower than logic, right down to the very faint honest voice at the bottom of the skull. You can hear that voice in a letter written by the 16th‑century poet Thomas Wyatt to his son: ‘No doubt in any thing you do, if you ask yourself or examine the thing for yourself afore you do it, you shall find, if it be evil, a repining against it. My son, for our Lord’s love, keep well that repining …’
“That is the best instruction you could ever give a poet: whether you’re examining a bad line in a poem or a bad motive for action, keep well your repining – meaning don’t ignore the honest muttering in your head.”
You can read the full text of Oswald’s article in The Guardian here.
You can register your support for her by buying her book, Memorial, for yourself or a poetry loving friend.
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