T.S Eliot and the death of poetry

The Hughes Memorial at  'Poet's Corner'

The image is from this BBC report.

Poetry was once  important as a part of  our culture,  and as an  art.  

This week , the Ted Hughes memorial-stone  made headlines , it  is sited near to T.S Eliot’s memorial-stone in Poet’s Corner  at Westminster Abbey.  I have linked the report above here. Unfortunately, T.S Eliot’s memory, and  his work for poetry has reached the headlines for entirely different reasons this week. Two poets had withdrawn from the T.S Eliot Prize , as of Wednesday the 7th of December. Alice Oswald withdrew on the 6th of December, citing her ethical refusal to accept the sponsorship of Aurum (a hedge-fund group), she was closely  followed in what amounted to an ethical boycott of the prize by John Kinsella on the following morning (7th of December).

The T.S Eliot Prize was targeted for ACE funding cuts in 2011 by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, alongside nine other poetry publishers or groups. I blogged about this at the time, but I am adding here a Guardian report on the issue. It interests me that small groups dedicated to the art of poetry were treated with such disdain in England, although it happened in Ireland also (in 2010). Here’s a poethead post on same.

Those amongst us who read poetry and indeed the biographies of poets like Ted  Hughes, Richard  Murphy, T.S Eliot and others ( William Trevor) will be aware that the idea of poetry was supported by the BBC, by successive U.K  governments and by the reading public. Poetry was a recognised art form, uncheapened by celebrity-status , or the red-carpet treatments meted out to the sorriest attempts at biography here in Ireland (for instance). I expect that this was because poetry’s  place was recognised as having a literary value, which cannot be equated to a monetary-value. 

When I looked at the Hughes memorial  images ,  although it does not show the proximity of the Hughes and Eliot stones, I truly wondered if it were not actually poetry that was being memorialized as a literary-form ?  Societies like the Poetry Book Society have for the current government in the U.K  little or no value. I believe that the same thing is happening here under the aegis of the 2003 Arts Act which saw cuts to two Irish Writer’s Centres,  and a city  council cut to the Poetry Now Festival !  These festivals and centres provide the life-blood of small press buying and selling,  and thus fund poets. There are quite a few pages and posts on this site about the unwonted closeness that exists between funders and politicians,  which I believe was created in the 2003 Arts Act and that I discussed here. It would really be tragic if poetry as a form was set to cultural ossification because government (who support and appoint arts organisations) saw it as not a seller.

Already too much art is caught into utilitarianism here in Ireland, and what was not considered art is being supported by government in the form of tax-reliefs and other incentives. I do believe that we are gone quite topsy-turvy in how we read , or do not read, in this instance.  I’d be scrutinising the lobby-groups that got arts money…..

BBC Film here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16055750 

Creative Commons Licence
T.S Eliot and the death of poetry by C Murray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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