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

Response to Poetry Live Ken Smith
Waiting in line at the airport, two salesmen are talking - about the boss the job the firm the product the prospects. Their talk is desultory, designed for filling time, and pepped out periodically by specious literary droppings.

As Mark Twain says, no smoke without fire.

There probably isn't, and though no doubt Twain said it, I doubt he coined the phrase. Fact is his name lends the speaker (and the product) superficial credibility. Supposedly it sells fire extinguishers and that justifies literature. Welcome to the Enterprise Zone.

There's smoke and some fire in PNR's issue 56, the official Poetry Live magazine. PNR's format lends itself to what looks like a beefed-up anthology of publishers and their house-styles, with samples, and the result is a fair mix in a messy layout, the evidence, I'd guess, of a scramble for maximum exposure. Still, the issue is some sort of guide to the cutting of the contemporary poetic cake in the contemporary marketplace, where many things are said to be happening without much evidence. What's evident is what's expected - the market leaders forge ahead, as ever, making grandiose claims commanded by their advertising budgets. Faber, we're more than once assured, promotes the Audens and Eliots of the future. For myself, I'd had enough of both the first time around, and if the present contenders for their waistcoats are to become the new Bloomsbury, I'd resign if there were anywhere to resign from. No thanks.


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