Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Sean O’Brien’s T.S. Eliot Prizewinner’s Lecture: Two Perspectives

[Cross-posted from Poetry International. For reasons of guilt and in light of several verbal comments, I have edited my review a little bit - GT]

by Adham Smart

“Nothing is outside, or above, the sphere of the political,” I muttered, sitting outside on the first floor of the Royal Festival Hall, a glass of wine in my hand and Sean O’Brien’s gonglike voice conveyor-belting through my head. “Nothing is outside the sphere of the political. Well, of course it isn’t. I’ve looked for something that is. Donaghy’s poetry does not simply rub up against fiction, it is the most exotic fiction of it all, and so the most political. An Irish-American who lived most of his later life in the UK - if he wasn’t being political there would’ve been something wrong with him!”

At that moment the wind grabbed the notes I’d taken during the lecture that I’d been writing from and whipped them over the edge into the London-thick air. Instinctively I leapt after them, stretched out my hand to grasp them, but they flew too fast for me, and both of us met the river.

I sank like a joke on Remembrance Day, while the wretched paper clung to the meniscus. (”Like a child that comforts its father simply by existing,” I mused.)

As the hellish-cold tides of the Thames violated my lungs I felt a disturbance in my wake, and as I looked skywards I saw Sean O’Brien himself in descent towards me, an unpoetically sharp knife clenched between his jaws. He removed the knife to angrily burble at me:


These were the last words I heard and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, they are most political.

A Nonsense of Comparison
by George Ttoouli

A partial list of comparisons made for Michael Donaghy’s poetry

Modernist poetry
TS Eliot
Ezra Pound
WB Yeats
Postmodernist poetry
Anti-postmodernist poetry
Academic poetry
Anti-academic poetry
Irish poetry
Paul Muldoon
American poetry
Richard Wilbur
Robert Bly
English poetry
Irish-American poetry
Irish-American English poetry
Anglo-American poetry

A partial list of abstractions used by Sean O’Brien during his lecture on Michael Donaghy

poignant absurdity
authentic but uncategorisable
supreme heresy
adjacently placed
bleak series
the horrors of complacent ignorance
the monopoly of reason
a more complicated poem
crowded yet often solitary
lies, illusions, things which are not there
sacred personal thing
sacred with profane
faith with deception
web of contradiction
an inheritance he is powerless to evade
dispel the fears
compellingly intimate
rapturously self-interested
remote self-regard

The one sentence review

Abstraction after abstraction - POEM BY MICHAEL DONAGHY! W00T! - name drop after name drop.

The one-line poem review

Singing the anthems of abstraction in the square.

The haiku review

Ice on the lake
fascists drown in the shapeless
murk of late frogspawn

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