June 18, 2010

Review of New Zealand Poetry on Eyewear, and a Note about Shyness, Awkwardness and Poetry.

Writing about web page http://toddswift.blogspot.com/2010/06/brigley-on-carcanets-twenty.html

Todd Swift’s blog Eyewear , has just published my review of a new Carcanet anthology, Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets. It’s a great anthology and it is good to see New Zealand poetry being taken seriously. The editors, Andrew Johnstone and Robyn Marsack, have done an excellent job.

One thing that I particularly liked about the anthology was that each selection of poems by a particular writer was prefaced by a statement of poetics. Reading through these, I was particularly moved by the poet Bill Manhire and his comments about awkwardness, shyness and poetry. Here is what he says:

Shyness and awkwardness, especially awkwardness, can give a poem peculiar worth – so that the apparently finished thing thrives inside its own sense of incompleness, keeping faith with the clumsy world it came from. Awkwardness guarantees a kind of authenticity. The stumble, like the presence of bad special effects in a movie, makes us feel human.

I find this comment heartening, because (believe it or not!) in some ways I am an extremely shy person, but perhaps shyness need not be an obstacle but a help, at least in writing poetry. Shyness or awkwardness makes us more human than slick operators. Perhaps it works too against the kind of celebrity culture that dominates in the media. It reminds me of the singer Madeleine Peyroux who I saw being interviewed once on some BBC talkshow. I had to laugh, because Peyroux hardly spoke; she was altogether shy, awakward, self-conscious and completely refreshing!


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