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This item is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

Attentions of the Dragon


Not for the first time, a reviewer (PNR 196) has confused writing with typing. I do not compose my poems with voice recognition software, or indeed on a computer at all. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for routine prose; it is a quick and, in its most recent versions, efficient copy-typist. I write poems in the traditional way, with a pen on paper; only when I reach what looks like a final version do I subject it to the attentions of the Dragon.


Poetry of the Future


Imagining one future for poetry, Grevel Lindop takes us way back in time (‘Myth, Magic and the Future of Poetry’, PNR 195) to Norse and Greek myth. There is something mildly surreal in this exercise, like a man building a space-ship from cereal boxes.

What is not clear in Lindop’s piece is where the future is. Is it just around the corner, or is it the year 8760, or 200101? The point is that there is no future; there are many futures ahead of us and, mostly, we do not have the slightest idea what most of them will be like. However, at some point, in at least one of them, and entirely thereafter, the Greeks and the Norsemen will be forgotten, along with their myths. At some stage, even we will be forgotten, along with our myths, whatever they are.

Lindop disagrees because he thinks that myths embody ‘elemental forces’, that they are ‘timeless and fundamental’. This is, presumably, some sort of empirical claim, but it is not clear what evidence supports it. History and sociology teach us the complete cultural dependence of myth. Today some of us, educated in certain ways, continue to nurture Greek myth, but we will not, we cannot always, do this, and to the vast majority of people – and it is in its power to move a host that the essential power of myth lies – many of these stories are already dead and, unless Lindop is aiming to strike Matthew Arnold’s note, there is nothing essentially troubling about this.

Bereft of historical and sociological evidence, Lindop must be offering us psychology. But this, as far as the future is concerned, is to pit some sort of neo-Jungian theory against a very rapidly altering landscape for the human subject that even the primitive science we currently practise foretells. The empirical evidence is that in the future two sciences will impact colossally on our conception of the human subject and the human mind: genetics and cybernetics. They will, we can have no doubt, change our human nature. How these changes will take place we cannot say but Lindop is at least correct to say ‘that we are reaching the end of age’. We are reaching the end of the age of what I.A. Richards called ‘the Magical View’, a view that Lindop perhaps wishes to live on, at least in terms of our ‘fundamental’ psychological attitudes.

At least one scientist-poet, Miroslav Holub, had as clear a sense as one could have of this future and a clear sense of what poetry could offer in such a world. It would not be what Holub calls the poetry of ‘spiritual expansion’, which seems to be the kind of thing that Lindop urges. Nor would it draw its power from ancient myths supposedly tied to timeless aspects of human nature. It would be something else. The fact that it is hard to imagine what is part of the point.


Admirable Spouses


What a pleasure to read the instructive and entertaining conversation between Miles Champion and Trevor Winkfield (PNR196). For the record, it was a pity Winkfield only mentioned one of the two spouses who employed him at Ex Libris in New York, namely Elaine Lustig Cohen. Her husband was Arthur A. Cohen, a remarkable writer and theologian. Carcanet published his novel An Admirable Woman in 1985. The main character is supposedly based on Hannah Arendt, but ‘it ain’t Hannah, although I knew her and admired her’ – says a postcard he sent me when ordering some Menard Press books.

Menard Press

This item is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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