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This report is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

Response to Poetry Live Donald Davie
Poets are not in favour of poetry. If they are serious characters, they are in favour of the sort of poetry they write or try to write themselves, and of more or less similar sorts of poetry written by a few of their contemporaries and by masters in the past. For the rest of what passes for poetry the serious poet has a contempt or dislike beyond that of the most philistine reader or non-reader. A few people with their heads screwed on have observed that the world of serious poetry is a world where dog eats dog. So it is, inevitably and properly; though what the shrewd observer fails to recognize is that it is not always mere self-advancement that sets one dog to rending another. The absurd and trivial hype called 'Poetry Live' depended on obscuring this reality, assuming on the contrary that poetry was a corporate enterprise in which each individual functionary amiably deferred to his 'colleague'. It isn't so, it has never been so, nor should it be.

But 'Poetry Live' was only the culmination of a process that has been going on for years, in which money and many reputations have been invested. It is the same illusion that poetry is a corporate enterprise that has produced over the years Poetry Festivals and Poetry Competitions, poetry workshops and residential courses. Whenever poets with manifestly different conceptions of poetry agree to appear on the same platform, or to serve on the same adjudicating committee, they ...


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