Monday, March 11, 2019

Writing my REF 300 word statement on History or Sleep: Selected Poems

I may be retired from Edge Hill but the university can still use my publications from my period of employment in the REF 2021 process (which is not being used in a disciplinary way at Edge Hill as it is in other institutions, or I wouldn’t play ball). Since I still supervise a few PhD candidates it is only fair that I should. Part of the process for those entering creative writing involves the writing of a 300 word introduction to each work. I thought I’d put them on my blog. I don’t think I’ve perjured myself. In an earlier form I was asked to state the ‘significance’ of my creative work, which received this rebuff:  

As a leading theorist of poetics as a speculative, writerly discourse, which attempts to provide open strategies for a writer, while not closing them down into ‘descriptions’, I have stated often my contention that writers cannot judge the significance of their own work. This puts me in a dilemma. As Jung wrote:  ‘Being essentially the instrument for his work he (the artist) is subordinate to it and we have no reason for expecting him to interpret it for us. He has done the best that is in him by giving it form and he must leave interpretation to others and to the future.’

But for History or Sleep, these be the words:

History or Sleep: Selected Poems. Bristol: Shearsman, 2015

This is the first selection of the full range of my poetry to be published, and it gives a panoramic view of the work, or rather: a chronological journey through the work as it develops. The earliest poem dates from 1982 (and is an unpublished poem). The most recent includes excerpts from A Translated Man (2013). I decided that since my 407 pp long poem Twentieth Century Blues was still commercially available I would only select lightly from that project, and avoid the complex indexing it carries. In fact, the decision was also made to restrict information on previous provenances so that the poems were foregrounded in their own rights. This would provide a different reading experience, even for those used to the poems in other contexts. Sequences, such as ‘Empty Diaries’ and Warrant Error, are represented by poems that best exist on their own; the emphasis was on the experience of the individual poem. (This sets up a tension with my creative practice to write in interrelated clusters of poems. Hopefully the poetic strategies are laid bare by this decision: the varieties of montage, de-montage, with interruption as structure, with transformation and transposition, formal resistance, creative linkage, ‘imperfect fit’, near-perfect fit, all kinds of multi-form unfinish, as I call them in my poetics. Combined with my desire to translate the matter of history into the manner of poetry, this volume demonstrates originality in its scope, its selection, its presentation and its poetic foci. This is reflected in the titling (which is also the title of a long poem included). There are various patterns that a reader might detect, both the poetic strategies and the poetic foci, as I put it, but also others of which the author might not be aware.

I’m not offering this as a model, but they might help somebody write their own statement. It might also – in this context – draw people’s attention to the book, persuade them to buy it, if they don't possess it.

You can buy it here:

but there are other posts about the book (and links) here. About selections here:

about de-selections here:

For similar statements on my other creative writings:

See my REF statement (and some thoughts about two reviews of the book): Twitters for a Lark here

For a statement (and some other matters) about Words Out of Time, go HERE.

And for an REF account of Unfinish go here.