Difficult poetry and the arduity project

This is by way of an update on arduity which I started earlier this year. The bad news is that I was turned down for a grant from our Arts Council primarily because they didn’t accept my plans with regard to financial viability.

This has come as no great surprise but it has led me to reconsider what I hope to achieve. I’m still of the view that a non-academic resource is needed to help readers to get to grips with difficult verse and know that I would have benefited from such a resource when starting to tackle Hill and Prynne. I’m also still of the view that the site should contain readings and responses from other non-academic readers as a kind of counterweight to what is produced by the academy. In this regard it’s interesting to note that I’ve had offers of contributions from others but nothing as yet has materialised.

There was a stage a while ago when I got bogged down in worrying about platforms (arduity now has three wikis and a blog that I haven’t started to develop) but I now think that I need to give more consideration to involving others- it doesn’t matter what platform you use if the material isn’t there.

Whilst I really enjoy writing about poetry, I also recognise that my own knowledge base is limited and my personal preferences do not cover the full range of this kind of material. I’m currently trying to psyche myself up to write something useful about Eliot and Pound but I’m not avidly enthusiastic about either (and I haven’t worked my way through ‘The Cantos’). The other thought that occurs to me is that I haven’t done enough on the various components of difficulty- I posted a shortish piece on ‘meaning’ yesterday which seems to be quite popular but doesn’t really do the subject justice.

The other issue is that I need to focus on a bit of marketing. I have yet to do the reciprocal links thing with other like-minded sites and I should really begin to make a bit more of an effort. I also need to reconsider the search engine placement strategy- ‘arduity’ has a first page ranking for ‘difficult poetry’ in google but this produces zero traffic so I need to think again about keywords and phrases with a view to the content that has been created.

So, this is a double plea- any contributions would be very much welcomed as would any views on the existing content (particularly on the ‘toolkit’ section). The relevant e-mail address is at the bottom of each page if you don’t want to respond here.

Incidentally, I find I’m addicted to writing about Prynne- is there a cure?

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4 responses to “Difficult poetry and the arduity project

  1. I’m one of the miscreants who promised a contribution and didn’t deliver. In partial defense, I’ve been starting a new job.

    I actually did reread Geraldine Kim’s Povel with a view to writing something, as I proposed. One problem is that it turns out not to be difficult — that is, it cleverly adapts an established “difficult” technique to an easily intelligible purpose. (No shame in that, especially for such a young writer; it’s quite entertaining, and sharply written to a degree that should give Tao Lin pause.) And further, in the absence of some crux or mystery, I couldn’t help worrying about it on a personal level — the “I” of the book is not noticeably distanced from Kim herself, so the glancing but persistent references to depression make it a little disturbing that she’s published nothing in the five years since.

    So I’ll renew that promise to write, but it’ll have to be about something else. I’ll be reading some Prynne (you’re right to fear there is no cure), but I’ll leave that field to you; there’s another idea on the docket, and I’ll turn to that.

    • I wasn’t intending any criticism, if people decide (for whatever reason) that they don’t want to contribute then that’s okay by me but I do need to find other ‘voices’ and I’m probably going about it in the wrong way. I was looking forward to you thoughts on Povel but I’ll welcome whatever else is on the docket.

  2. I guess I should sing my mea culpa as well. It’s true, I have been trying to get ‘them’ to finish my new computer lab and that has taken up mental time as well as real time—but I haven’t been that busy. And I did write something on Wallace Stevens (it’s on extrasimile and not finished and maybe not finish-able), but I don’t think it’s particularly suited to Arduity. More of a self-indulgent, speculative travelogue than a commentary or explanation of ‘The Rock’. Truth is, I simply may not know enough poetry, may not know enough about poetry—these are different things, right?—to be trying to explain ‘difficult’ poetry to anybody.
    And other than an avuncular pat on the back and a nod towards particular poem, I’m not too sure what one should do with an explanation, if explanation is what we’re doing. I will again mention Hugh Kenner’s name as somebody who seemed to get it right. And I can’t do that, can I?
    By the way, NYRB has just reissued Bruce Duffy’s ‘The World as I Found it’. I nod and a pat you on the back. A novel based on the lives of G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein—and he pulls it off.

    • I have read your piece on Wallace on extrasimile and was hoping that you’d forward it. I’m not entirely sure that ‘explaining’ covers what I hope arduity could become. I enjoy writing about this stuff but I try and do it as an example of how a poem might be enjoyed (rather than understood)- I’ll admit to sharing some of my findings on Prynne, which could be seen as explanation but what I’m trying for is to give people the courage and confidence to try this stuff for themselves (and to write about that experience).
      Does that make sense? I don’t think I need to worry because I don’t have Kenner’s talent or about the fact that I’m just stumbling about in the dark but I am concerned that if ‘ordinary’ readers don’t get heard then this material will continue to be ossified by the academy.

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