So, Alice Oswald and John Kinsella have withdrawn from the T.S. Eliot prize. Oswald's statement the other day expressed her unease over the prize's new, financial sponsor: '[...] I think that poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions [...]' Like her or love her, at least she's chosen a position and stuck to it. I don't really want to go into the politics of the Eliot prize, though. I've been thinking about Oswald's statement, and I think it deserves further deliberation.
In his blog, the writer Ian Marchant talks about the end of economic growth and what it means for his mid-Waleian town, Presteigne. Marchant, whose book The Longest Crawl is one I bang on about to just about everyone (seriously, it's fantastic), is certainly not an economist, and neither am I, but what he says about moving towards a society in which we don't put financial gain as the ultimate virtue in life seems to me to be on the button, making him, in a way, a co-conspirator of Oswald. Marchant's summary, which can be found linked above, is probably the best I've read of how we ought to progress from 2012, but my fear is that most people will write him off as being a luddite.
Thinking about Marchant's views in conjunction with Oswald's withdrawl, I begin to think how I feel. Lately, I've been trying to write some political poetry, after being encouraged by Clare Pollard to write about a political issue; to act on Shelley's maxim and become 'an unaknowledged legislator of the world.' That 'unaknowledged' does sit uncomfortably for me, but the rest of the sentiment is perfect. How, then, do we legislate the world when the world seems to want different things to ourselves?
I'm certainly not a Tory, but it winds me up no end hearing endless, futile rants between and by Cameron and Milliband and their supporters. All the bullshit that festers in the news about getting the economy kickstarted and saving the Euro and all the rest of it - that means fuck all if the sole aim is to get back to 1999, to the same situation which started all this mess.
Personally, I'm with Shelley, Oswald and Marchant: I want my poetry to legislate the world and in doing so challenge the status quo, but I don't want to ram those thoughts into its face. I'd prefer for you to breathe them in; sweat them out; feel the residue of their salts on your glistening skin.